Chocolate…Wilbur Buds…Mmmmm!

WilburBuds

You can get Wilbur’s buds in little boxes and pound bags, milk chocolate and semi-sweet.

The candy store and museum are on the bottom floor of the candy factory. You'll hear all the noise from all that chocolate magic going on above you.

The candy store and museum are on the bottom floor of the candy factory. You’ll hear all the noise from all that chocolate magic going on above you.

When you love chocolate, the idea of visiting a chocolate factory sounds like heaven. I still remember my childhood visit to Hershey’s chocolate factory (when it was still open) and have taken my own kids to Hershey’s Chocolate World. In San Francisco, Ghirardelli Square was our first stop — the factory is no longer there so factory tours weren’t an option but oh! the chocolate shop and the restaurant.

In charming Lititz, Pa., in the heart of Lancaster County, I recently explored Wilbur Chocolate Company. I visited it as part of a personal Chocolate Pretzel tour with two of my favorite fellow tourists — pairing it with a visit to Herr’s Snack Foods (See next week’s post).

A collection of Easter molds is on display.

A collection of Easter molds is on display.

We came at the perfect time — just in time to pick up a few Easter bunnies, but without the crowds that will fill the little store in the coming weeks.

It doesn’t take long to visit Wilbur. Tours of the factory aren’t available, alas. The first stop for visitors has to be the chocolate shop — you’ll smell a faint hint of all that chocolatey goodness out on the sidewalk. It’s not big — visitors to Ghirardelli, Hershey and other chocolate giants should take note.

Old-fashioned chocolate making equipment is on display at the Candy Americana Museum just past the shop.

Old-fashioned chocolate making equipment is on display at the Candy Americana Museum just past the shop.

Instead, it feels like what it is, a small town shop. Shelves are stocked with the famous Wilbur Buds (I only recently discovered these little gems) and a variety of seasonal items, along with filled chocolates, truffles and molded chocolates. You can also buy chocolate-colored t-shirts, Chocolate-opoly, Bud-E Bear and chocolate-scented body lotion. Yeah, I got some of that. Craved chocolate the rest of the day.

Hot chocolate used to be served from graceful pots, rather than a cup from the microwave.

Hot chocolate used to be served from graceful pots, rather than a cup from the microwave.

Past the shop is the Candy Americana Museum. The space is small, and admission is free. Take your time. The shelves are crammed with stuff: lots of old chocolate making tools, chocolate molds,  including molds from other chocolatiers, cocoa tins and 150 chocolate pots. Ceramics fans, you’ll love the assortment of pots and cups.

You gotta have self-control to keep from licking your fingers on this job.

You gotta have self-control to keep from licking your fingers on this job.

There’s a video running that tells the story of chocolate from its days as a pod on a tree in tropical climates. I should have watched it but I was distracted by the small kitchen adjacent to it. A half-dozen women in hairnets were creating  fun molded chocolates. By hand.

All-told, we spent more time driving here than visiting here. But the packed sacks of chocolate will keep us remembering the place for a long time to come.

One additional note–I’ve never been to Lititz before. But the town — named America’s Coolest Small Town in 2013 — charmed me with its sturdy architecture, its variety of shops and restaurants, the park by the river in the center of town and the visitor center installed in the old railroad station. I’ll be back.

Next week, the second half of our chocolate pretzel tour — to Herr’s Snack Foods in Nottingham, Pa.

© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman
Chocolate molds photos by Gina Truitt

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