Rudy and Isabelle Muth were right after all.
When they opened Muth’s Candy Store on East Market Street in 1921, the area bustled with manufacturing and offices.
Workers bought handmade chocolates to end their lunches on a sweet note, or to take home.
By the time the Roaring Twenties became the rolling Seventies, businesses and families had moved to the suburbs.
Muth’s became a lonely landmark amid shuttered-up storefronts.
Today, however, the NuLu neighborhood blossoms with art galleries and restaurants, and the store has gained many new customers.
Muth’s, at 630 E. Market St., is celebrating its 91st anniversary this month. Martha M. Vories, granddaughter of Isabelle’s sister, is currently in charge.
“This is probably the best part of downtown, after the north end of Fourth Street. There are lots of condos and offices now,” she said. “Muth’s has moved only once — we used to be at 526, but they built the expressway over it. We’re still within a block of where my great-uncle and his wife started out.”
Generations have loved Muth’s Modjeskas and Kentucky bourbon chocolates; the latter are made with Very Old Barton. Modjeskas, named for Polish actress Helena Modjeska, who visited Louisville in the late 1800s, are dense marshmallows enrobed in light caramel. When the creator, Anton Busath, lost his own candy store to a fire in 1947, Rudy was given the recipe.
Martha’s daughters Stephanie and Sarah, and son Matthew — the fourth generation of the family to work at Muth’s — grew up with the delectable scents of those and other candies around them.
“My father (Stanley Bennett) made a playroom for them in the back,” Martha said. “In a family business, you have to make the next generation care from the beginning.”
Stephanie, 23, graduated from the University of Louisville in 2010 with a degree in English and communications, and is pursuing a career in editing; she helps out primarily during holiday seasons. Matthew, 21, and Sarah, 19, are on hand when their U of L classes permit. He is a junior majoring in communications, and she is a sophomore studying business.
“We’ve always known what we were getting into,” Sarah said. “Ever since grade school, our friends would say, ‘When are you going to bring us candy?’”
Over the years, the pair has learned to fight the temptation to chow down on the treats that surround them.
“We help mainly with packaging the chocolates, after they’re made and dipped,” Matthew said. “Sometimes I’ll grab a piece; but working with it so often, you learn not to eat too much.” His taste runs to chocolate-covered nuts and turtles, while Sarah is partial to Modjeskas.
Several display cases sparkle with metal trays and colorful tins that once carried Muth’s candies. Today, paper boxes are standard, but they feature the same variety and quality.
“You can get exactly the assortment you want,” Martha explained. “Don’t like jellies, or a specific cream? They won’t go in the box.”
Muth’s has a full-time staff of nine, plus a half-dozen part-timers, especially during the busy months — November to May. After Derby, business traditionally slows for candy stores such as Muth’s that don’t also sell ice cream.
But with 14 flavors of chocolate-covered creams, seven kinds of brittles, including coconut and black walnut, along with dozens of other specialties, selling candy keeps the staff busy enough.
“Everything here is done by hand. There are no barcodes, so we memorize prices,” Matthew said. “We’re on Facebook and Twitter, but in the future we’d probably want to take advantage of more modern advertising, and try to reach a larger audience — but keep the handmade quality.”
He and his sister are weighing their own options, including perhaps running the store someday.
“Muth’s has history and tradition, and it’s unique to Louisville,” Sarah said. “A lot of other candy stores, especially ones farther out, aren’t independent. It would kill us to see this end with us.”
Muth’s Candy Store is located at 630 E. Market St. and is open Tuesday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday.
For information, visit www.muthscandy.com or phone 502.585.2952.