Canelakes Candies owners Pamela Canelake Matson and Dennis Matson

Canelakes Candies owners Pamela Canelake Matson and Dennis Matson stand in the newly opened addition to the landmark downtwon Virginia candy store Tuesday afternoon.

VIRGINIA — There’s always something sweet happening at 414 Chestnut St., in Virginia — home to Minnesota’s oldest, continuously running candy store.

But it’s been an extra sweet week at Canelake’s Candies.

The iconic candy shop, in operation since 1905, has something new to add to its long history. Canelake’s, on Tuesday, opened an expansion into the adjacent building, broadening its selection of merchandise and preserving its history — and that of the Virginia area — for generations to come.

The Canelake family spent more than a year renovating 416 Chestnut St., to increase retail space and establish a candy (and Iron Range) museum, said co-owner Pamela Canelake Matson.

Walls are adored with enlarged photographs depicting the shop’s transformations through the decades: An image of the 1900s’ storefront, complete with wooden sidewalks and bananas displayed in the window; second-generation candy makers, brothers John and Leo Canelake, posing in front of the shop in the 1960s; longtime candy dipper, Liona Forst, dipping chocolates at a table now used as a display in the expansion.

Antique candy machines, some still used for cooking Canelake’s handmade candies today, are on exhibit — a ribbon candy maker, patented in the 1890s; a 1920s candy cutter; a drop roller machine used to make hard candies.

Canelake’s early-1900s, 2,000-plus-pound cream beater — used right up until this year, when a new one was installed in the on-site candy kitchen — was restored and now displays the shop's brand-new line of candy corn and tail mixes.

Sugar peanuts and an expanded selection of licorices, packaged for sale, are mixed in with on-display antique candy molds and other Canelake’s memorabilia.

Vintage cases also show off Virginia-area advertising souvenirs from years ago and other Iron Range artifacts.

The exterior of the expansion was finished to look like the original, featuring hand-painted sign panels designed by co-owner and artist, Patricia Canelake, and the interior of the building, constructed in 1904, was completely restored.

Interior walls were gutted and the floor was replaced, as were exterior brick and windows.

Patricia also created a directional mileage totem to point out for visitors some of the area’s attractions, including Virginia’s Olcott Park, the Lyric Center for the Arts, the Veteran’s Memorial, Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm, Eveleth’s Hockey Hall of Fame, the International Wolf Center in Ely, Biwabik’s Giants Ridge Recreation Area, and the Soudan Underground Mine State Park.

Canelake’s addition features an expanded selection of Minnetonka Moccasins, Canelake’s apparel, and a variety of locally made and produced products — Nett Lake wild rice; Red Lake Nation wild rice pancake mixes; woodworking and gnomes by Pat, Cindy and Katie Rogers; Kathy Schlotec’s Stone Obsession jewelry; Susan Hubbartt’s retro aprons, totes, and hot pads; Peggy Hejda’s suncatchers; Homestead Mills’ Northern Lites pancake mix.

The candy shop’s original soda fountain counter, a wooden table made by John Canelake, a vintage safe, and chairs from the former longtime shoe shop, Skoog’s Bootery that operated from the 1930s until recently on Chestnut Street, are among other pieces in the addition.

The building was once owned by Carl Pederson and housed Pederson Photo Studios in half the space; the rest was occupied by Les Hafdahl’s Hallmark card shop, Canelake Matson said. Photos of the former businesses are also part of the new museum.

The renovation, she said, was funded by the Virginia Downtown Commercial Rehabilitation Project along with the City of Virginia, ReVive Virginia, the Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, the Virginia Economic Development Authority (VEDA), the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Association (AEOA) and the Virginia Community Foundation.

Lenci Construction, and subcontractors — B&K Electric, Heisel Brothers, Range Cornice, DSGW Architecture, W.A. Fisher Co., NTS Environmental Science & Engineering, ACCT Inc., and Streeter Construction — assisted with the project.

When the candy shop returned to the Canelake family a few years ago, the community provided a big “warm welcome,” Canelake Matson said.

Canelake’s is a nostalgic place, she noted. Customers often reminisce about their childhood memories of the store, and “new memories” are being made by younger generations.

The candy shop’s story began when four brothers — Chris, Gust, Tom, and Nick Canelake — moved to Virginia around 1904, several years after immigrating from their village in Peloponnese, Greece, explained Canelake Matson. “They heard Virginia was a boom town,” and decided it would be a perfect place to open a store.

Canelake’s was founded the following year by the brothers as the Virginia Candy Kitchen.

Chris and Nick then moved to Hibbing to start the Hibbing Candy Kitchen. Gust remained at the current Canelake’s Candies, and Tom opened the Olympia Candy Kitchen in Virginia’s First National Bank Building.

Gust’s sons, John and Leo Canelake, took over the operations in 1945, later selling to Jim Cina in 1982. Cina, while not a Canelake, continued to use many of the original candy recipes.

When Cina retired in 2018, John’s children — Canelake Matson and her husband, Dennis, identical twin sister Patricia Canelake, and brothers, John and Chris Canelake — brought the store back into the family.

They are continuing to teach new generations the family’s candy-making traditions, Canelake Matson said.

“Our employees are excellent candy makers” — cooking up all the sweet treats filling the shop’s cases: Canelake’s noted hot air candy, turtles, caramels, truffles, brittles and barks; hard candies like cinnamon and strawberry-watermelon humbugs and raspberry drops; and even chocolate-dipped popped wood-parched Nett Lake wild rice clusters.

Canelake’s has also brought back soda fountain favorites and created new concoctions, from lime-flavored “Green River” to pina colada floats. Patrons can enjoy an ice cream cone or sundae — or even a hot air crunchy ice cream bar — at booths in the original part of the store, where vintage photos are also displayed.

Canelake’s is truly a Virginia (and Minnesota) landmark — 117 years old, and going strong, Canelake Matson said.

She is sure her grandfather, great-uncles, dad and the rest of the family — remembered now more than ever in the store’s museum — would be so proud.

Canelake’s is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 pm. Mondays through Saturdays, with expanded summer hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.


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