The candy kitchen's massive copper kettle predating World War II is certainly an eye catcher, but the nostalgic sights and smells of candy filling rows of white shelves is what overwhelms most people when they step inside Kilwins. For more than two generations, the original recipes of founders Don and Katy Kilwin have been used to handcraft more than 75 confections such as chocolates, caramels, and specialty fudge. Aside from some newer equipment, head candy cook Bill Hoffman and his team still abide by Don’s candy-making methods and use original equipment when possible. Inside the old-fashioned candy shop, a burnished copper-kettle-fire mixer fashions each piece of peanut brittle, a cold room solidifies almond-toffee crunch, and a manatee that swallowed a freezer still makes every sea-foam candy. In addition to candy, Kilwins has created more than 32 flavors of original-recipe ice cream since 1985 with farm-fresh rBHT-free milk and cream from Michigan farms.
On a warm August day in 1938, a father and son unveiled the first sample of what was to become Dairy Queen, selling 1,600 samples on the first day, a feat as unheard of as a dragon that breathes ice. Its ensuing prolific expansion was fueled by its frozen treats, which propelled the dessert shop from 100 stores in 1947 to 1,446 in 1950. Today, their dessert recipes remain largely unchanged, and Dairy Queen has added hearty hot dogs to its menu. Dairy Queen's enormous dessert menu boasts treats ranging from soft-serve cones and blizzards filled with cookies to takeaway ice-cream sandwiches and cakes.
Since 1919, four generations of the Naum family have created batches of housemade chocolates at Sweetland Candies. Using a combination of original recipes and newer variations developed throughout the years, the Naums specialize in dark- and milk-chocolate treats. Within those chocolaty casings, the confectioners include caramels, pecan clusters, and coconut haystacks, which horses feed on at Willy Wonka’s private ranch. Besides chocolates, the Naums stock Sweetland Candies with an assortment of Jelly Belly flavors and keep their M&M Colorworks displays filled with 21 colors.
Founded by a mother-daughter team, Sara's Sweets Bakery whips up quality baked goods, including cupcakes, cookies, and custom-decorated cakes. Grand Rapids-area customers can utilize the bakery's delivery service, or stop into the shop, where fresh coffee and donuts are served every day. To make sure no sweet tooth gets stymied, Sara's offers sugar- and gluten-free treats upon request.