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Candy is dandy especially Widman's

With the holidays and gift-giving on the horizon, I thought I would do some research on chocolate if you can call visiting a candy store research. While in Widman's Candy Shop in Grand Forks, I met a most incredible man a candy maker extraordinaire.

With the holidays and gift-giving on the horizon, I thought I would do some research on chocolate if you can call visiting a candy store research. While in Widman's Candy Shop in Grand Forks, I met a most incredible man a candy maker extraordinaire.

George Widman Jr. is 87 years old. His family's candy-making history stretches back to the 1800s. His grandfather, William, was a baker and candy maker, and he started the ball rolling. Then, his father, George Sr., took over the candy making and added ice cream.

George Jr. concentrates on just candy today. His partner (and a candy maker, too) is his wife, Betty. I didn't get to meet her, but according to George, in spite of her health problems, she also spends a great deal of time at the shop.

As I nibbled on their latest concoction, a chocolate-covered "Blueberry Zinger," the delicious essence of chocolate almost made me swoon. This room must be filled with molecules of chocolate, and I'm inhaling them, I thought.

Before I continue, I have to give Blueberry Zingers my enthusiastic endorsement. Blueberries are famously rich in antioxidants and vitamins (specifically vitamin C), and these blueberries are covered in dark chocolate. As you bite into the tidbit, the deep taste of rich chocolate washes over your senses. Then, you get zapped with tangy blueberry. Real nice.


Widman's Candy Shop, at 106 S. Third St., can be hard to find because it's a bit out of the way. But people find it. I was there Friday, and the room was filled with people. Five or six candy dispensers filled orders quickly, and customers left the shop with bags full of candy.

The Widmans have three stores: one each in Grand Forks, Crookston and Fargo. They carry 150 different kinds of candy. For the Christmas season, they offer handmade Christmas candy you know, that old-fashioned kind of candy from years past.

George Widman Jr. was an aviation mechanic first class in the U.S. Navy before he turned candy maker. He was on an aircraft carrier at Okinawa during World War II when Japanese kamikaze planes attacked. More than 350 men on his ship died during that battle. The awful war seemed to be clear in every detail for him, as it is with most veterans.

Widman's Candy Shop is creative. They have chocolate cell phones, golf clubs, bowling balls, bingo cards, get-well cards, tea cups and even bark bones, all made of some sort of chocolate mmm, my favorite word.

What is so special about this candy? George said (and I believe him because I'm a fan of his candy) that his chocolate is perfect because they use the best ingredients and most important, each of these wonderful morsels is hand-dipped.

The store's signature chocolate treats, of course, are the hand-dipped, chocolate-covered potato chips called Chippers.

Are there any secret recipes? I asked, thinking, perhaps, I could snare one. No, he said; it is the skill of the candy maker. It's knowing the viscosity, color and flavor of the chocolate.

The big candy makers add water to their chocolate so it will cover better. Widman's is pure, and each candy, as I mentioned, is hand-dipped.


George asked me if I had tried flax chocolate. Well, I said, I did buy flax for a while when they said it was so healthy. It's still in my refrigerator and has been there now for four years.

"You have to try our chocolate-covered flax," he said. The flax is roasted, salted and then dipped.

I tried one. While almost anything covered in chocolate is good, the flax chocolates were good on their own. Roasting gave them a nutty flavor.

"Do you like candy," I asked? He eats candy or chocolate every day, he answered. He loves all his candies and especially chocolate. A man after my own heart.

What about diabetes? "The disease runs in my family, and I have to restrain myself from coming over here too often," I said.

But Widman and most of his family are not diabetics. He is healthy and doesn't worry about anything, he said.

I started thinking about dark chocolate, which contains flavoniods that keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduces the risk of blood clots and slows down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries. Is dark chocolate favored over milk chocolate in the shop?

Not really, he said. Widman's sell only about 10 percent dark chocolate and 90 percent milk chocolate. The samples he generously gave me were dark chocolate; I prefer dark chocolate because it seems richer to me.


George's sense of humor and zest for candy and life made my afternoon in Widman's Candy Shop an excellent experience.

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