Life’s a candy store and we’re just walking through it. Luckily for you, Dayton-based company Esther Price Candies is that candy store. Founded by Esther Price 90 years ago, the candy company began as an outlet for Esther’s childhood passion for making fudge. The company opened its first store in 1952, which now serves as its headquarters.
Esther’s grandson, Don Otto, fondly recounts his grandmother’s entrepreneurial spirit and delicious family business.
“I always called her my fantasy grandma because she was just so incredible,” says Otto. “She would peddle her candy downtown door-to-door, and it reached a point where she couldn’t make enough. That’s how the business grew to seven stores. She wanted it to be special, something you couldn't get just get anywhere. In that day, grocery stores weren’t as gourmet and wonderful as the stores we have now. She had the store on Wayne Avenue, and then she got the store in Cincinnati on Montgomery Road and started expanding. It’s been an incredible story ever since. The company is one of the things that Dayton’s known for.”
Tradition is a large part of Esther Price’s heritage. The cream beaters used to create the sweet centers of many of the company’s filled chocolates at their factory in Dayton are some of the same ones used when it began production in the 1920s. The process the company uses to make their cream centers has been around for nearly 100 years. Esther sold the company in 1976 to friend Jim Day, confident he would honor her family legacy.
“She gave me him a handwritten list of what she wanted and how she wanted it carried on,” says Otto. “He says, ‘This isn’t my candy store, this is Esther’s. She did this.’ That’s the mentality he has, to put quality over profits, and that’s why it’s still such a wonderful product today.”
The candies themselves range from newly-created pumpkin seed brittle, peanut brittle, and beer brittle to caramel and pecan-filled chocolates (milk or dark), sweetheart mints (heart-shaped chocolate filled with creamy peppermint), and chocolate-covered potato chips (a collaboration with fellow Dayton company Mikesell’s). Nonpareils, Christmas-themed candies, cream-filled chocolate Easter eggs, milk and dark chocolate-covered nuts and chews, honeycombs, peanut butter-filled chocolates, opera creams, almond bark chocolates, and more are also on hand. The iconic gold box with a red ribbon makes each box of Esther Price Candies look like a present in and of itself.
“Grandma changed boxes a lot for different times, but she always wanted that signature gold box, so it looked like a quality, expensive, signature special gift. To this day people love it. Anymore, people have everything, so buying something that’s consumable within a few days is a wonderful gift to get people, and a box of candy is a thing people don’t always just buy themselves, so it’s still a treasured gift,” says Otto.
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