Coming up with the perfect holiday gift for others — relatives, neighbors, co-workers, or even your boss — can often be a challenge, but if you know that they have a sweet tooth, a visit to Kellerhaus will be sure to offer many delectable solutions to the dilemma.
Kellerhaus, located on Route 3 in Weirs Beach, is New Hampshire’s oldest candy and ice cream maker, creating homemade confections for 106 years.
Since buying Kellerhaus in 2004, Mary Ellen and David Dutton have continued to use many of the same tools, techniques, and recipes first perfected by founder Otto Keller and his descendents — and since, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Kellerhaus’ sweet confections are justifiably considered by many to be among the best.
The Duttons make more than 101 varieties of candy fresh on the premises, which gives customers lots of mouth-watering options to choose from. In addition to their regular selections of candy and chocolates, during the Christmas holiday season, Kellerhaus also produces more than 2,000 boxes of its famous traditional ribbon candy, which is shipped to customers all over the country. Kellerhaus is the only place in New Hampshire (and one of the few in the country) to make its ribbon candy paper-thin and by hand.
The ribbon candy comes in eight major flavors, including peppermint, wintergreen, cinnamon, molasses, licorice, clove, vanilla, and spearmint. Most boxes contain an assortment of flavors but custom boxes are available containing just one flavor or a combination mix of your favorite flavors. Special boxes containing just peanut butter ribbons also are available. Small boxes contain four strips of ribbon candy while large boxes contain 10.
Production of the ribbon candy typically starts in mid-November, according to Mary Ellen. “We actually start ribbon candy season by making candy canes,” she explains. “They are less intense (only two flavors) versus the 10-flavor runs needed for ribbon candy. It also ensures us that the gas jets, hot tables, and candy-making equipment are in working order before we start the long production day required by ribbon candy.
“We start candy-making in mid-November at the first sign of a cold snap,” says Mary Ellen. “The weather has to be very cold and dry, without a hint of precipitation. If there is any chance of rain or snow, the candy (canes or ribbon) will become sticky before we can get it packaged. It is still my plan to mimic Mother Nature by getting the ribbon candy production area adapted for temperature and humidity control. Because we have undertaken multiple, major renovations this year, we didn’t have enough time to get it done for this winter’s production. So, once again, we are going to rely on the hope for perfect weather conditions … as the candy makers have for the past 100 years!”
Mary Ellen notes that a production run typically takes an entire 12-hour day from start to finish, from cooking to pulling, spinning, cutting, and packaging. Full production runs occur about eight times during the season.
Although it is a seasonal favorite, ribbon candy actually accounts for only about five percent of Christmas candy sales at Kellerhaus, according to Mary Ellen. “Other than the ribbon candy and candy canes, our most popular holiday items are the Favorite’s Trays. We package our top-selling chocolates in all different sizes (and price ranges) of trays, baskets, and boxes. We spend about a fourth of our time making the chocolate trays for hostess gifts, large parties, and corporate orders. They make up 25 percent of our holiday candy sales and are always popular. They contain butter crunch and an assortment of white, milk, and dark chocolate clusters, bark and turtles. The Favorites start flying out of here for Thanksgiving and are in high demand straight through to New Year’s Day.”
Other popular choices for holiday gifts are gift-wrapped boxed chocolates. “They are popular because of the wide variety of flavors in each box,” explains Mary Ellen. “There are 28 different creams, caramels, and jellies enrobed in our milk and dark chocolate in the one-pound box (half that amount in the half pound box, of course!). People like the variety for co-workers or families, particularly if they don’t know what kind of chocolate someone likes.
“Also, the box cover has a map of the Lake and they’re freshly made chocolates so they make a good gift for someone from the Lakes Region. We can customize the box, too. If someone wants 26 vanilla caramels and two peppermint creams in their box, we will make it for them.”
Other food products at Kellerhaus include jams, relishes, jellies, nuts, and maple products such as maple syrup, maple sugar candy, and maple mustard, as well as a selection of sugar-free candy. You can also order many items online from their website, and Kellerhaus will ship purchases world-wide.
If you have someone on your list who doesn’t have a sweet tooth, you can browse through several unique gift areas located throughout the store. You can find unique ornaments and other Christmas decorations, cards and candles, stocking stuffers, U.S.-made toys, jewelry, gifts for women, gifts for men, and gifts for babies, making it relatively simple to enjoy “one-stop shopping”. You can also rest your feet in the large dining room while enjoying homemade ice cream.
Kellerhaus ushers in the holiday season with a “Cookies and Milk With Santa” afternoon on the Friday after Thanksgiving. “Santa visits us for two hours the Friday after Thanksgiving,” says Mary Ellen. “We all enjoy the excitement and energy of the children; they really are adorable! Some run to him, some run away from him, some hug his leg so he can barely walk to his chair. You never know what will happen next. It is a fun way for us to kick off our holiday season. Our ‘elves’ give out a free, personalized ornament, paint hands with glitter tattoos, and offer the children cookies and milk.”
Mary Ellen adds that, every weekend after Thanksgiving, Kellerhaus holds a “Yuletide Open Haus” with free hot-spiced cider, coffee, and a lot of samples located throughout the store. “This year, while supplies last, we plan to have a gift for our customers as a token of appreciation for their support of our small business,” she says.
Kellerhaus is open daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. (except for Tuesdays) and it is located on Route 3 in Weirs Beach. For more information, call 1-888-KLR-HAUS (1-888-557-4287) or 603-366-4466, or log on to www.kellerhaus.com.