The Easter Bunny is having an easier time here thanks to the long history of local Wisconsin confectioners
Here are 10 ways to source your basket of goodies locally.
It’s the sweetest morning of the year, certainly the most chocolaty. Marshmallow eggs, creme eggs, chocolate bunnies, stacks of coconuts – Easter baskets are a glorious find on holiday mornings. And if you’re helping a certain Mr. Cottontail put together your family’s candy basket, you can turn to Wisconsin’s long tradition of family candy that dates back to the 19th century.
One of the oldest currently in operation is Seroogy’s, with locations in suburban Green Bay, DePere and Ashwaubenon. The Seroogy family have been in the chocolate business since 1899 and offer a number of delicacies just for Easter, including the cutest lop-eared bunnies you’ll ever see. Seroogy’s will be hosting Easter Bunny events on April 15 and 16. And if you don’t live close enough, you can order special Easter melty bars, fudge or cream Easter eggs, coconut bird’s nests, Oreo eggs with bunny ears and baskets whole Easter eggs from Seroogy’s online store.
Even older than Seeroogy’s, the Oaks Candy Shop in Oshkosh opened in 1890. They offer a number of Easter specials, including giant chocolate eggs filled with candy, gummy bunnies or more chocolates. Oaks offers a wide variety of filled chocolate eggs, including fudge pecans and caramel pecans, as well as molded bunnies of all kinds. You can visit them on Oregon Street or order from Oaks Candy.
Oshkosh is also home to possibly Wisconsin’s most unique candy store. The Hughes Chocolate shop opened in 1940 in the basement of the Hughes family home at 1823 Doty Street and it is still there. During the peak candy seasons of Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day, you’ll know you’re in the right house if you see a line of people in the aisle, waiting for their chance to down the basement stairs and into the factory.
Hughes is open from candy apple season in the fall until Mother’s Day, closing for the summer. Hughes’ “Home Maid” Easter items range from a four-pound chocolate egg to bunnies, chocolate baskets and stuffed eggs of many types, from peanut butter to vanilla-cherry-pecan.
Although not strictly an Easter item, Hughes is known for his “oysters” which are cream-filled, chocolate-covered confections that are rolled in crushed peanuts. They come with a chocolate or vanilla filling; and no matter how many you order, it won’t be enough. If you can’t get to the basement on Doty Street, you can order from them at MailMeChocolates
If the Hughes family owns the weirdest candy store in Wisconsin, the award for most eccentric owner goes to Jim Fetzer of Northern Chocolates in Milwaukee. Fetzer has been dubbed “The Chocolate Nazi” for the performance art that makes up a visit to his shop. Fetzer, a hippie during his days at UW-Whitewater, is now 70 and has rocked several revolutions across the political spectrum. Visitors will learn his views on Madison’s liberals (“Boring!”), people who wear fur (“The worst humans possible!”), and the most commercial chocolate (“Complete shit!”).
Fetzer’s own chocolates are sublime, especially the mint fondants he perfected after leaving a long career with the former Ambrosia Chocolate Company.
Fetzer is a collector of antique chocolate molds, which fashion some of the most beautiful bunnies, bars and eggs you’ll see anywhere. He also collects religious statues and old Santas, so a visit to his Cream City Brick storefront at 2034 N. Martin Luther King Drive is a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. But beware, Fetzer only takes cash, doesn’t allow small children or muddy shoes in the store, and may not serve you if he doesn’t like you. It may also not be open, so always call ahead: 414-372-1885.
About 60 blocks west of downtown Wauwatosa, you’ll find a more normal candy experience at Niemann’s Candies, 7475 Harwood Ave. The Niemann family has been making homemade ice cream and candies since 1919 and offer their candies online. In addition to chocolate bunnies, baskets, and buttercream eggs, Niemann’s also offers egg-shaped candies and Milwaukee’s favorite, whipped cream egg.
Whipped Cream Eggs are the claim to fame of Buddy Squirrel, founded in 1916 on Mitchell Street in Milwaukee as the Quality Candy Shoppe. Now based in the southern Milwaukee suburb of St. Francis, Buddy Squirrel makes whipped cream eggs in flavors ranging from raspberry and mint to peanut butter. You can order online or visit their outlet store at 1801 East Bolivar Ave. at St. Francis.
Another Wisconsin candy store that recently celebrated its centennial is The Sweet Shop, located at 1113 Caledonia St. in La Crosse. He has hand-dipped chocolate Easter candies, but is best known for his sundaes and his “fairy food”, a chocolate-covered hard sponge candy. The Sweet Shop was founded in 1921 and is still a family business.
Beerntsen’s Candy, 108 N. 8th Street in Manitowoc, was founded in 1925. In addition to marshmallow eggs and chocolate lambs and bunnies, it uses old molds to create more religious objects, such as a chocolate cross and chocolate bars embossed with an image of The Last Supper. You can visit their old store in Manitowoc or order online.
A relative newcomer to Wisconsin chocolate, Sjolind’s Chocolates in Mount Horeb proves Norwegians know a thing or two about bean-to-bar chocolate, too. Sjolind’s factory on the east side of Mount Horeb has been closed to customers since the pandemic, but the chocolates are available at their cafe at 219 E. Main Street in Mount Horeb. For Easter, they have cute chocolate roosters and bunnies, cream-filled eggs, homemade marshmallows in sophisticated flavors like coffee, and a chocolate hen on a nest of jelly beans.
And speaking of candy, we are sad to report that the Jelly Belly factory in Pleasant Prairie has closed during the pandemic. Store visits on Jelly Belly Lane and warehouse tours on the “Jelly Belly Express” trolley are a lasting memory for a generation of Wisconsin children. The tour featured candy-based artwork, including a bean-to-cup portrait of President Ronald Reagan, who made the candy famous.
Alas, in July 2020, Jelly Belly closed the factory, moving production to Chicago. We hope they took the puke, stinky socks, and rotten egg flavored “BeanBoozled” beans with them when they left.
But we won’t end our Easter basket story on a sour note. Or rather, we will, because you can still buy jelly beans made in Wisconsin. Impact Confections, which has a factory in Janesville, still makes the iconic candies of the 1990s, Super Sour Warheads. And the Warheads range includes jelly beans, which have a sour shell and a ‘sweet and fruity’ interior.
Impact also bought out the former Melster Candy Company, which operated in Cambridge from 1919 (a big year for Wisconsin confectionery startups) until 2010. Melster’s lineup includes these Orange Circus Peanuts and Easter Bunnies. filled with marshmallow.
Have a sweet Easter in Wisconsin.