Deals, Dares & Reviews To Help You Savor Your World.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside – a squat cinder-block building perched above the Dan Ryan expressway on Chicago’s gritty South Side. But for those with a sweet tooth, L&P Candy and Tobacco is a deliciously nostalgic trip back in time. Ham takes me there one day on a whim, ostensibly to buy some beloved strawberry cookies he’d enjoyed there as a child. What amazes me most is not that he actually finds those very same cookies thirty-odd years later, but that we have the fortitude to walk out of the store WITHOUT buying enough candy to put ourselves into irreversible diabetic comas.
Inside the humble, poorly-lit warehouse are rough-hewn wooden tables stacked with bags and boxes and cases of Lemonheads, Gummibears, Tootsie Rolls, Pop-Rocks, Pixie Sticks, Now & Laters. Large plastic bags of Gumballs in every shape, size and flavor are heaped in festive, colorful piles. Everywhere we turn is another mountain of sweet, sour or minty candy we haven’t seen in years: Gobstoppers, Blow Pops, Bottle Caps, Charleston Chews. Ham walks the aisles, reverently touching each bag, reliving each childhood memory.
At first it’s easy for me to smile and shake my head and tell him to “put that back” every time he tries to place something in our shopping cart. As a die-hard chocoholic, these little non-chocolate candies do nothing for me – I’ve always preferred to save my calories for the good stuff.
But then we come upon the Kit-Kats. And the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. And boxes and boxes of Skors, Three Musketeers, Snickers, M&Ms, Milky Ways, Heath Bars, Whoppers. I throw a bag of Hershey’s Kisses in our shopping cart – I simply can’t help myself. Ham grins at me but has the good grace not to comment.
L&P also sells cases of tobacco items and has, in recent years, added quite a few non-candy items to its inventory: gallons of milk, cartons of eggs, boxes of frozen Pizza Puffs, huge cans of Nacho Cheese Sauce, bulk packs of hot dogs and Italian sausage links – even strange and wonderful jumbo-sized jars of pickled pigs’ lips. (Yes, I said “pickled pigs’ lips!)
If you owned a gas station or convenience store, this would be a great place to buy your inventory – sort of a poor man’s Costco. In fact, I suspect that most of the customers shopping here are buying stuff to sell in little “unlicensed” candy stores and hot dog stands that they operate out of their garage or basement or back porch – a common entrepreneurial venture on the South Side.
But it could be that the folks browsing the aisles at L&P Candy and Tobacco are just like us: here to relive — if just for a few moments — that joyous anticipation we once felt as a kid at the candy counter of our neighborhood store. To go back to a time when we were wide-eyed six-year-olds, with the whole world laid out before us and a shiny new quarter to spend on anything we wanted.