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By Tom Smith


In the first days of The Confectionary  a woman knowledgeable about the ways of DeKalb advised that if you wanted some candy from that new store you’d better get it now because they won’t last six months. Oh yeah!

That was 1982.

Sharon and I knew nothing about commercial candy making. Then we went to a candy show in Chicago where a chocolate machine was being demonstrated and we knew we had to have one. But once we had one we had to learn the art, and I do mean learn the art of  working with chocolate. Trust me it ain’t easy.

Then panic. It was 1984. We had just started making creams when it was announced that Fanny May was opening a store on Lincoln Highway. Or as their landlord was quoted as saying who would want the stuff Tom and Sharon have when they could have Fanny May? They found out. The people of DeKalb County, angered with this corporate giant, increased their patronage of The Confectionary and we never looked back. Fanny May? They never caught on in DeKalb. Tough.

In the beginning everything was done by hand. That meant everything was stirred by hand, toffee one hour, caramel up to three hours. Then we began to acquire machines to do the stirring and lifting. We drove to Vermont to get a used ball beater in our diesel station wagon.  It barely fit. But fit it did. And it is still making (stirring) creams. Speaking of creams prior to the ball beater they were kneaded by hand on the marble slab you can still see in the DeKalb store.

How did we succeed? Every extra dollar was put aside to buy the next machine. While some merchants were living it up with trips to Vegas or New York we were being pleasured by an $18,000 candy cooker that would not only cook and stir the batch to specifics but lift it up and pour it on the slab. That is what I call pleasure! We were also buying the buildings that house the Confectionaries. And our house. In other words be frugal.

Secondly, you must be devoted to excellence. Absolutely. If it doesn’t measure up, toss it. When you are learning the trade you will make a lot of mistakes. Mistakes go in the dumpster, not in the customer’s bag.

Quality. It is quality that is central to our success. Take caramel. Years and years ago candy makers used cream and butter as essentials in making caramel. Then the sharp pencil people decided cream and butter were too expensive and substitutes were found and the deep flavor was lost. Not so at The Confectionary. Try one of our caramel apples. It is the caramel that makes the difference.

Sycamore. A store in Sycamore was not on our agenda and then in 1994 we got a letter from a Sycamore landlord who wrote that he had heard we were interested in moving to Sycamore and if so he had a space available. We weren’t but took a look anyway. We signed a lease and the story leaked. The reaction of the people of Sycamore was overwhelming. They were going to have their own Confectionary! Two years later we bought the building.

And so in the briefest of yarns, that is how Sharon and I got to retirement and the sale of the business to Todd and Betsy Hendrey, our son and daughter in law. Who would have thought it?