Summer Sweets: Canelake’s in Virginia
Part Two: A Summer Sweets Series
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Jim Cina walked into Canelake’s Old Fashioned Candies shop one day and never left.
“We started in 1905, I say I’m 110 years old. Or I mean 111 years old. I look pretty good for 111. Not many guys at 111 look as good as me,” said Jim Cina.
But it wasn’t an easy start for Jim, having to apprentice for a year without pay perfecting the art of candy making.
“You want to make candy? You can’t, you can watch and one day they say okay, you can watch the dipper, dip. And then pretty soon you’re in the back room making peanut clusters and cashew clusters and which one comes first and all the little tricks that there are you know.”
The previous owners, Johnny and Leo Lake, were excellent teachers with some unconventional teaching methods.
“I remember when I started, Jonny Cane Lakes would say, ‘Now we’re going to put your hand in this water and if it comes back bone, your chocolate is too hot, yeah if your hand comes back bone it’s too hot’ and he’s laughing and laughing,” Jim said.
With a history going back to 1905, Cane Lakes Candies has left quite a mark on the community.
“When I first took over,” Jim said, “we had people that would come over and they’d say ‘my wife and I, we fell in love right over there.’”
Traditional candy keeps the memories going, but memories aren’t the only thing that Cane Lakes serves up.
A classic soda machine will make some refreshing drinks, some with an eye popping color of lime green that hits the spot on a hot day.
Machines aside though, Jim believes even they cannot beat a human’s touch even if that means some candy gets burnt in the process.
“When you buy stuff that is machine made that is real nice, it’s all the same. If I was to give you a cashew or something that we made, one would have a little burn, and it is that that gives it the flavor that it has,” said Jim.
Jim’s character is undoubtedly transferred into his candies and he says the nice thing about candy is that it all comes out in the wash, even though it may get a little messy at times.
“That old lady, she could dip all day, and never have candy any farther than her wrist. I mean I got it in my hair, it’s on my pants it’s over here it’s under there, it’s on her it’s on the doorway over there…”
Cane Lakes Old Fashioned Candies takes 110 year old recipes and keeps it on the simple side.
“…and I thought, they’re just going to have to put up with it and we’ll make it so it looks good and it tastes good and it will taste five times better, maybe more, and that’s how it’s gunna have to be,” said Jim.