Editor's note: Muncie Origins is a Ball State Daily News series profiling various businesses that originated in Muncie.
Lowery’s Candies is celebrating its 75th birthday this year and continues to hand dip each piece of the over 100 varieties of chocolate items they sell.
Vicki Brown and her son, Charles Joseph, are the second- and third-generation owners of the family-owned business.
Lowery’s was started in 1941 and moved locations to Brown’s parents' home 51 years ago, where it remains today. Brown has worked full time at Lowery’s since 1974, and Joseph since 1998.
“At first, I didn’t like [the storefront in our house] because I felt it was intrusive to have all these people in the backend bothering me," Brown said. "I’d wanna go out and talk to my mother and she was busy, busy, busy, but I got used to it and now I really love it and you get to eat all the candy.”
Lowery's still uses kitchenware from 1941 to make the candy, and they will dip anything a customer wants in chocolate.
“The fact that we’re doing it the traditional, old school way — we still hand dip where everybody has transitioned over to machinery, that's what makes it even more special,” Joseph said. “We’re bucking the norm. In the world we live in now it’s faster, faster, faster, faster and we’re doing something that’s so far from mainstream society now and we’re holding our own ... it’s just fun to see something so traditional and “old” holding its own against competitors in the mainstream society.”
Frieda Howard started working at Lowery’s in the '60s and learned how to be a dipper from Brown’s mother. She graduated from high school with Brown and returned to work at Lowery’s 11 years ago.
“I got away from the business for a while and then one day I called [Brown] and asked if I could come back to work,” Howard said.
Howard said the secret to getting perfect hand-dipped candies is knowing the correct temperature.
"I just know the texture of it," Howard said. "It’s hard to explain — I just know if it’s too warm, too cold, it’s just gotta feel just right.”
Because they refuse to add preservatives to their chocolate, Lowery’s is only open from Labor Day to the last Saturday before Father’s Day. From the last week in August until Dec. 31, 2.4 tons of individual candy pieces will be sold. An additional 1.2 tons of chocolate is sold from Jan. 1 through Father’s Day.
Lowery’s chocolate comes from Blommer’s, the biggest chocolate supplier in the United States. Companies such as Hershey’s and Nestlé also get their chocolate from Blommer’s.
“They’ve been in business two years longer than us, so we’re one of their oldest customers,” Brown said. “The Blommer’s salesman told me that he thinks we have to be if not the largest, one of the largest true hand-dipping companies in the nation.”
Because Lowery’s has been around for so long, they are starting to see longtime customer’s kids and grandkids visit the store and some of their regulars visit every day.
“It’s great, it’s fun when you see a customer that you’ve dealt with for ages … you can actually have a good time with them," Joseph said. "They feel a connection with us and that’s awesome to have customers that you know on a first-name basis that come in and you see them out at the grocery store and it’s like, ‘Hey, how are you doing, haven’t seen you all summer, how’s the kids, how’s life treating you?'"
Laurie Wilhelm has been a Lowery’s customer for 15 years. She said the business is a staple in the community and it would be missed if it ever went away.
“Any time I could sneak over and get some candy, I do," she said. "My kids used to go to a babysitter near here, so when they were really little I would pop by here with the kids and get them a piece of candy every once in awhile. [Now] any chance they can get, they’ll try to get over here.”
The family atmosphere at Lowery’s is both Brown and Joseph's favorite part about the business.
“We love to have fun … you look forward to coming to work cause you get to talk to everybody and see everybody," Brown said. "They’re all my friends, that’s the best part."
The atmosphere was what even brought Joseph back after leaving at one point.
“[Muncie] feels like home. When my wife and I first got married, we actually moved out of Muncie because she worked in Indy and I worked here, and where we lived at, it just never felt like home," Joseph said. "It got to the point that when we had our child, we just jetted back to Muncie because it just is home."