Photos by Steven J. Pallone
“Candy makes people happy” may be the truest statement in existence.
For Terry and Steve Andrianos, the owners of Hercules Candy Company, it isn’t just a phrase or logo, but their way of life. Not only do they live and breathe candy, but their family does as well. The original owners, a trio of brothers from Greece, would be delighted to see that their shop, recipes, and family name have carried on for over 100 years.
First known as The Boston Candy Kitchen, Hercules Candy has gone through the depression, being tossed about between siblings in order to please a matriarch, the ups and downs of the general economy, local business struggles, and continuing to have the will and drive through generations to stay alive. One thing that is incredibly unique is the fact that from 1902-2018, the business was run mainly from a family home in East Syracuse. The basement was a factory, the first floor was the store, and upstairs was the family’s residence. The business shut down for approximately five years until Steve decided to re-open his family store and take it on, despite everyone calling him crazy.
“The equipment was very simple,” Terry said. “He just had candy thermometers, copper kettles, the double boilers you need for chocolate and he started it up. He got some sugar and some ingredients and he started it up in 1977.”
Fast forward a few years, and the store was only open seasonally. Steve was bartending in August 1983 when he met future wife Terry.
“I took a hankerin’ to him and sat in front of his cash register until he asked me out,” Terry recalled. “He finally got the hint.”
They were married that next May and Terry joined the family business — literally. She took over the business role of Hercules Candy and Steve continued to make the candy.
Over time, the pair grew into a family of five. All lives would change in 2012, however, when it was discovered that their son Craig had a crippling auto-immune disease. While fighting during this incredibly dark time, Craig began to research treatments and found that going on a plant-based diet would put the disease into remission. Which it did. He then decided, since he had essentially cured himself, to share this information with others via YouTube.
Here’s another turning point for Hercules Candy. Through his research, Craig discovered that ribbon candy is made with no
animal products and decided to make a video for his channel. His viewers loved it so much they demanded to see more. He added videos showing other candy made by the family shop—peanut brittle, candy canes, and more, all with no animal products. Finally, in 2017 to avoid confusion, Hercules Candy began their own YouTube channel. Craig is now a professional YouTuber and runs both pages. The store’s YouTube channel now has close to 400,000 followers.
“Now to people, it’s more like a reality show,” Terry said. “They think of us as characters, some of them think we’re celebrities; some people will come in here and cry when they meet us. They want us to sign things and stuff.”
But Terry said there’s actually very little drama behind the videos.
“We’re just being ourselves,” she said. “We are showing them everything we actually do. So we’re giving away our recipes, but it’s like you think you can do this? Go ahead. There’s a reason people have us do it.”
With the generated funds from their channel they were able to move into a store front in September 2018. The larger space is allowing the family the flexibility to try new creations and masterpieces.
“The things we do here are so unique. There’s no one candy store that makes all of the stuff that we make, even if you go
online and look at big websites for competitors,” Terry said. “They’re not doing all of the stuff we’re doing here, like hard candy made by hand, and candy canes, and nut brittles. Most companies will do chocolate or those things. We do both.”
The map on the wall with pins showing where people have traveled from to make it to the candy shop in East Syracuse speaks volumes. Folks stop by on their way to and from Canada, or as a side trip. But the family doesn’t forget their local support.
“They know it’s made here, and they know it’s fresh and they like supporting a local business,” Terry said. “We’re part of the community. We’ve been here since 1910. It’s not just the history. It’s really good candy”
Hercules Candy Company is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and can be found at 720 W. Manlius St. in East Syracuse. Get to know your favorite candy makers on Youtube as well.