CLARKS SUMMIT – The northernmost link in the three-store Jon Stopay Candies chain opened here in 2015, a year after Bill and Jenn Egan purchased the Taylor-based company. The Egans live in the borough and added the store so their neighbors could more easily get peanut butter chiffons and other confections produced by a candy maker which remained unknown to many northerners.
“We wanted to introduce Lackawanna County to these great products,” Jenn Egan said about the store at 103 S. State St. “It’s almost once you cross that Lackawanna-Luzerne county line, it’s a completely different world.”
Sales, according to Egan, have increased since the Clarks Summit store opened, but she believes many State Street passersby remain hesitant to try something new. The novelty factor changes with the latitude: sweets by Stopay have been available in Luzerne County since shortly after the end of World War II.
“This candy,” Egan said, “is very addicting.”
Jon Stopay Candies was founded by Jon and Eva Stopay in 1946. They sold their handmade products, including the peanut butter chiffon, out of a store in Edwardsville. They later transferred the business to their son, Johnny Stopay, and his wife, Mary Ann. The second generation ran the firm until 2012, when they sold it to the brothers Doug and Mark Young. The Youngs had the company until 2014, when it was acquired by the Egans.
Bill Egan is co-owner of Kelly Volkswagen in Scranton, founded in 1949 by his grandfather, Paul Kelly.
“Bill just has kind of a soft sport of these mom-and-pop companies,” Jenn Egan said. While her husband focuses on the car business, running Stopay is Jenn Egan’s full-time job. Stopay is a small firm with only 19 employees, so the boss rarely sits behind a desk.
“I do whatever,” Jenn Egan said. “I cook. I mold. I run chocolate. I run register.”
Stopay’s plant, which includes one of its stores, is located at 354 N. Main St. in Taylor. Another store is in Plains, at 17 N. River St.
All the chocolate items are prepared in the Taylor factory, and sales of the company’s flagship peanut butter chiffon candy bring in more than half of the revenues, according to Egan. Peanut-butter-and-chocolate confections are not difficult to find in the candy sections of stores, but Egan is certain Stopay’s chiffons are never mistaken for Reese’s cups.
“We have a secret-recipe peanut butter that we order from a plantation in North Carolina,” she said. “And then we add our secret ingredient.”
The non-chocolate candies carried by the stores – including gummies, Swedish fish, cherry slices and jelly beans – are purchased from suppliers. These sweets make up about a quarter of the inventory.
The weeks leading up to Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter Sunday are the three busiest times of the year at Stopay’s stores and factory. In the summer, when demand for chocolate falls, the plant is closed but the stores remain open. Walk-in customers are responsible for the most revenues, Egan said. Online sales are the second-largest segment.
“We do well online because a lot of people in this area leave,” Egan explained. “But they remember our candy. Around the holidays, we get a lot of people who want our peanut butter chiffons because they’re having a gathering.”
Cook’s Pharmacy in Kingston and Shavertown, Fino’s Pharmacy in Dallas and Pittston, and Bakery Delite in Plains also retail Stopay candies.
The Egans, with three stores, have no plans to open a fourth outlet. As the parents of eight children, they have little time to plan for commercial expansions.
“We have two in college, two in high school, two in middle school and two children in elementary school,” Jenn Egan said.
A few years after the couple purchased Stopay, Bill Egan showed his wife a newspaper story about how Americans were eating less chocolate compared to a decade earlier. The article confirmed what Jenn Eagan had observed while working behind the cash register in Taylor.
“You see it around Easter, especially,” she said. “People are gearing themselves around more healthy things. So, instead of buying a big, 15-ounce rabbit, they’re buying a tiny little lollipop.”
Egan said some older couples had told her they were prohibited, by their children, from buying Easter baskets for their grandchildren. And some parents now buy a single basket of chocolates to be shared by the whole family instead of individual baskets, as in previous years.
Stopay’s co-owner remains optimistic about the future of the candy maker, in large part because of its history.
“We’re more of a specialty chocolate,” Jenn Eagan said. “Everything that we do, from the crèmes and the caramels, everything is made the way it was made 70-some years ago. The same recipes. It’s all hand-made. It’s exactly the same.”
Peanut butter chiffons, which are made with a special peanut butter enhanced with a secret ingredient, are the top-selling type candy at Jon Stopay Candies, which is based in Taylor and has a store in Clarks Summit.
Oliver Egan, son of owners Bill and Jenn Egan, works inside the Jon Stopay Candies store in Clarks Summit. The Egans opened the store in 2015 as a way to bring the Luzerne County-made sweets to residents of Lackawanna County.
The Clarks Summit store, opened in 2015, is the newest location in the three-store Jon Stopay Candies chain.