5 Star Stories: 5 generations of fine candy and family traditions make Dinstuhl’s a Mid-South treat
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Do you know what Elvis, the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and QVC have in common? They’ve all been fortunate enough to have treats custom-made from Memphis oldest chocolatier -- Dinstuhl’s Fine Candy Company.
The candy company even earned the rank of “Best Candy Store of the South” and is definitely a 5 Star Story.
The family affair called Dinstuhl's Fine Candy Company started in a tiny 400 square foot shop on Main Street in downtown Memphis 118 years ago.
According to Dinstuhl’s President, Rebecca Dinstuhl, “Charles Martin Dinstuhl Sr. opened the very first Dinstuhl’s Chocolate Shop and Ice Cream Parlor. They made wonderful candies and treats and he and his wife Lula actually worked in the store.”
Today, the 11,000 square foot kitchen on Pleasant View Road is substantially larger than that tiny kitchen way back when. The kitchen is also now kosher and has been for 12 years, but folks in the kitchen said they really didn’t have to change many ingredients.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is how the candy is made.
"Every piece is touched by hand, " said Rebecca. “Even those conveyors are manned by individuals at several points who is touching the candy, and marking the candy, packing the candy.”
Same goes for the bows, all wrapping, sealing and labeling. It’s all crafted by employees, many of whom have a family pedigree in the candy business, like Rebecca Dinstuhl’s son, Andrew, who is also the kitchen manager.
“It is in my veins. I come from a product of two different candy-making families and I’m a fifth-generation Dinstuhl," said Andrew. But on my mother’s side of the family, she comes from candy makers down in Alabama.”
Andrew said he learned the candy trade from his family elders.
“My grandfather is the one that really molded me in candy making and I think I make him proud everyday that I come to work and do what he taught me to do," said Andrew.
But candy isn’t always profitable. Judy Moss and her husband, Larry, bought the company in 2003 after an economic downturn, which was exacerbated by a natural disaster.
"Hurricane Elvis had just come through and wiped out all the product and they were in need of some help,” recalls Judy. “And so we met with the Dinstuhl’s, Gene and Grace, we talked to them about it and felt that it was really important to help save a Memphis institution.”
Judy has been working in the shop ever since. And, she brought along her daughter, Marrissa (Moss) Magdovitz, who now works as operations manager making Dinstuhl’s a family business for the Mosses and a dream come true for Marissa.
“It’s every kid’s dream to work in a candy store. And when I got the opportunity to be a part of it I couldn’t say no. I was ready to jump in and help out where I could,” she said.
With one visit to the kitchen, it’s easy to understand why someone would love to work there. It smells like a candy lovers dream the minute you walk in, and it’s also an enticing feast for the eyes.
The Dinstuhls and Mosses take great pride in their products. You’ll probably never see the latest and greatest candy fad on its store shelves.
“We don’t do a lot of fancy things, but we’re down to brass tacks. Our product is our pride and joy as well as the customer service that we offer our customers,” said Rebecca.
That and, as she says, " ... the wonderful employees we’ve had for many generations. So, that’s really the cornerstones of our company. But the quality of the ingredients that we put into our product is definitely top of the line."
And somethings are just too good to leave up to too much modernization.
"Robots and machines and technology has just taken over everything, " muses Marrissa. “And we still put that personal touch into everything that we do, in every step of the way. And I think that’s an important factor in what makes Dinstuhl’s so great. The time and devotion that we put into making everything just right.”
And the head candy maker said that’s likely not going to ever change.
“Our bread and butter is the same candy that we’ve made since 1902, that’s why people keep coming back,” said Andrew. “Dinstuhl’s is here to stay with the thing that got us here, and that is traditional, handmade chocolates.”
Traditional, handmade chocolates that Memphians and people the world over know and love. As a matter of fact, Dinstuhl’s was just honored with the Award of Excellence from Peter’s Chocolate Company, the world’s premier manufacturer of chocolate.
The Memphis-based confectioner is also proud to announce the opening of a new store in downtown Memphis at 147 S. Main Street, back in the neighborhood and street where it all began.
If you’d like to take your own tour of the candy kitchen call 901-377-2639.
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