This piece is part of a series of articles submitted to The Local Tourist through a cooperation with a 400-level travel writing class at Purdue University.
By Nicole Pennell
With its bright red and white striped awnings, McCord Candies is an unofficial landmark on the corner of Sixth and Main Street in Lafayette, Indiana.
When McCord opened in 1912, it was previously named Glatz’s Candy’s after founder Lee Glatz. In 1947, the establishment was sold to a Mr. Ivey McCord and, following the model of Mr. and Mrs. Glatz, rebranded the store as McCord Candies.
However, this would not be the last time the store would be bought and sold. Honestly, it has been through so many different people that no one is sure how many times it has changed ownership.
Despite the many owners, the name McCord Candies has stood the test of time. The majority of the inner works of the business has remained intact including the sodas, candies, and the making of candy canes.
The most recent owners, Ken and Denise Bootsma, purchased the business in June of 2017.
How they came about the idea to purchase the infamous McCord Candies Store was quite different than people probably know.
Ken had spent the majority of his life being involved in school districts, but retired. Denise had been working at Purdue. One day Ken got a call from an old friend out in California asking him to travel there and be the superintendent for a school.
Ken said yes, so Denise and Ken were working in California. After some time they came back to Lafayette to be closer to family. As they were traveling back, Denise asked Ken what they could do that was together, to spend time together as much as possible.
Denise said, “I am going to call McCords and see if they are wanting to sell.”
That is exactly what she did and, lucky for her, the previous owner, Mike Becker, was more than ready to sell it.
Denise has spent a good chunk of her life here in Lafayette, Indiana. She said that “my grandmother brought me here and I have brought my kids here.”
It had been a happy and fun place to visit with the people she loves.
When she initially thought about purchasing McCord Candies stores it was because it was a happy place and memory for her personally. Today McCords is running smoothly with some minor upgrades and adjustments.
Denise hung up new lights, painted, and fixed things on the balcony. There were parts of the store that had been covered up by drywall or wallpaper or other things that the Bootsmas decided to uncover and keep the old-timey ways.
Although Ken, Denise’s husband, is from California he had moved to Lafayette and was working for an organization downtown. He said, “I used to go to McCords everyday for lunch.” There were several options in the downtown area, but Ken chose McCords frequently.
Similar to Mr. Ken Bootsma, there was once a man who owned an establishment down the street from McCord’s and would walk down the street to get a coke every morning. Despite the fact that he had a coke machine in his place, he said: “For some reason they make it taste better, there is no specific reason.”
The environment and atmosphere inside McCord’s are positive and welcoming which makes McCord Candies such a happy place.
Although the new owners changed some things around, they did not tamper with the timeless way that McCords Candies has made candy canes.
The making of their candy canes is different than how regular candy canes are made, and you can undoubtedly taste the difference. Only a handful of candy stores continue to make candy canes the old fashioned way, and McCord’s is one of those.
It is an interesting and different way to prepare candy canes. Everything is homemade and handmade, so when you are enjoying that candy cane, just think about the hard work that went into making it.
During the holiday season, while everyone else is asleep, the McCord Candies employees are hard at work in the early hours of the morning making the well-known candy canes. There are no machines that assist the candy cane making process, just some people and sugar.
Although it would be immensely less stressful and time-consuming to get machines involved, that would take away from one of the major reasons that McCord Candies is this big and successful.
They make everything from the sugary base of the candy to molding it into the candy cane shape. Many people in the Lafayette area would feel let down if that type of change would be implemented.
Denise Bootsma said, “We don’t stop because the demand for these canes is so high, and my biggest fear is letting people down and not having enough canes. So I can sleep after (Christmas). Until then, I’m sleep-deprived, and it’s OK.”
Denise also mentioned she would make candy canes from the early morning until about 11 pm or midnight.
This just goes to show you how important and sentimental these candy canes are to the people of Lafayette. The Bootsmas know the importance and that they couldn’t stop making them the way they have been made for all these years.
I have received McCord Candy Canes in my Christmas stocking for as long as I can remember. They have been such a big part of my holiday season and I know from going into McCord Candies so often that other members of the community resonate with me as well.
Although the candy canes are the most well-known product, they also sell candy cane hot chocolate, which is outrageously good. I also receive a little packet of that in my stocking each year. I don’t think people speak about it as much, but it quite good.
McCord Candies offers several different renditions of the candy cane. They try and reach a large audience and please as many different candy cane lovers as possible. McCord Candy Canes are such a staple for Lafayette and its surrounding areas, especially during the holidays.
The Bootsmas said, “The holidays are the most stressful, but most fun time of the year.”
McCord Candies is located at 536 Main Street, Lafayette, IN. (765) 742-4441