Preserving Main Street’s Candy Palace: An Architectural Confection in Buffalo, New York

If you’re still debating whether or not to splurge on that heart-shaped box of chocolates for your Valentine (or maybe one special truffle, salted caramel, or raspberry jelly, just for yourself), consider the fact that your purchase, in addition to making someone feel special, might bolster the economy.

According to a 2011 report published by the World Cocoa Foundation, “Approximately 68,450 jobs in the U.S. are directly involved in the manufacture of confectionery and chocolate products. When the distribution and sale of these products is taken into consideration, the employment effect triples.”

No doubt local business leaders and government officials took these sweet stats into consideration when partnering with property owner Phil Buffamonte to restore Parkside Candy, a landmark retail confectionery showroom, soda fountain, and restaurant located on the angled corner of Main Street and West Winspear Avenue, in the primarily residential University Heights district of Buffalo, New York, since 1927.

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Like the proverbial box of chocolates, the industrial-era commercial building that has housed Parkside Candy for more than 90 years is full of surprises.

 

We wandered into this nostalgic corner store out of curiosity last September, not realizing that the Art Deco-style neon sign, green-and-white-striped awnings, pastel walls (painted a custom pistachio green mixed by Sherwin Williams), and new black-and-white checkerboard floor were all part of a two-year-long public-private renovation project completed to the tune of $250,000 just days earlier.

On the outside of the low-rise brick and masonry structure, a neon-scripted sign (which glows hot pink at night), plate-glass storefront, and brass-handled wooden doors suggest pure Art Deco geometry.

Parkside at NIght
The storefront at night, as featured in this image by Robert Kirkham of the Buffalo News. Image: Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News http://buffalonews.com/2017/08/10/gallery8885/

But cross the threshold of Parkside Candy’s Main Street America façade and one quickly finds oneself enveloped in an authentic architectural confection born of an active Beaux Arts-era imagination. This is Northeast Buffalo by way of a Gilded Age Parisian salon, layered with enough Adamesque carved millwork and plaster ornaments to rival the over-the-top splendor of any pre-Depression-era movie palace.

Parkside Candy’s retail showroom takes the form of an oval-shaped arcade, with a domed ceiling and no fewer than 16 arched bays distinguished by dark walnut paneling, Corinthian pilasters, mirrored doors, illuminated candy cases, and neoclassical plaster moldings in the form of gilded urns, acanthus, grotesques, laurel swags, and curved banquettes forming private booths for one or two or more, depending on your mood of the moment.

It should come as no shock that the man who dreamed up Parkside Candy’s luscious interior—Buffalo-based architect G. Morton Wolfe (1885-1966)—became well known in his day for designing theaters, as well as office and retail spaces. Unlike some of his other regional work, however, the whimsical candy palace that G. Morton Wolfe designed at the behest of Molly and Edward Kaiser—the founders and owners of Parkside Candy Shoppe, which remained in their family for more three generations—somehow survived for more than nine decades unscathed by the insensitive updates often made in the name of modernization and convenience.

Every day in this mixed-use Main Street building, soup and sandwiches, coffee and tea, hot-fudge sundaes, banana splits, and old-fashioned malts are served up in the newly restored shop/restaurant. And Parkside’s signature sponge candy—along with lollipops, chocolate-covered pretzels, and sugar-free confections galore—are still made in the factory located in the building behind the retail shop.

A sweet part of the city’s history is preserved. And for that, we probably have America’s abiding love of chocolate to thank.

#Stopdacar

Parkside Candy was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 2015. The restoration project was awarded a $125,000 Better Buffalo Fund matching grant through the University District Community Development Association (UDCDA) by Empire State Development and New York State Homes and Community Renewal as part of the Buffalo Billion Initiative, which awards incentives to projects deemed to have the ability to foster local economic growth.

We can’t vouch for the chocolate yet, but certain University of Buffalo residents we met swear by the sponge candy. And New York State Assembly Member Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, speaking at the shop’s dedication last fall, is on record saying: “The candy is good, but the soup is good, too.”

We say: Always err on the side of love…and chocolate. —m.e.g.

 

Parkside Candy | Main Street Store
3208 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214
716- 833-7540
 
Restoration Architecture:
Dean Sutton, Sutton Architecture
Williamsville, New York
 

For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov and www.esd.ny.gov.

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