Even hardened Philly locals now have a sweet reason to visit Independence Visitor Center: Hershey’s first stand-alone café.
Hershey’s Kitchens, which opened Wednesday at the visitor center at Sixth and Market Streets, serves s’mores made of full-size Hershey bars, custom marshmallows with hints of smoke and vanilla, and 4-by-4-inch graham crackers. Those are all smooshed together and put through a conveyor belt oven so the marshmallows melt evenly.
Market East and Old City, meet your new “I-had-a-bad-day, I-deserve-all-the-things” lunch.
Aside from s’mores, the café also serves Hershey’s milkshakes, warm baked goods drizzled with even more gooey goodness, and La Colombe coffee. Grab-and-go salads and sandwiches are also available.
Plenty of souvenirs that blend Hershey products with Philly and U.S. history are also available. It’s a bit bittersweet to see Ben Franklin munching on a chocolate bar that didn’t exist in his day, but this is the man who said, “Wish not so much to live long as to live well" — and living well does mean eating a lot of chocolate.
There’s also a “sweet land of liberty” shirt on which the Liberty Bell is portrayed as a piece of chocolate under a thin gold foil wrapper. We see the plot for National Treasure 3 taking shape.
Suzanne Jones, vice president of the Hershey Experience (yes, that’s her actual awesome job title), said Hershey has wanted to open a café for some time. Because Hershey is located in Pennsylvania and Milton Hershey started his first business in Philadelphia, the company thought setting up shop at the visitor center, which sees 2.5 million visitors a year, was “a perfect marriage.”
Although Hershey has “tiny versions” of the café concept at Hershey Park and in its New York City store, this is Hershey’s first stand-alone café, Jones said.
James Cuorato, president and chief executive office of the visitor center, said the center’s old café, which debuted when the building opened in 2001, was sorely in need of an upgrade. Hershey’s Kitchens was brought in as part of a recent $15 million renovation to the center.
"This is a Hershey experience that’s unique to Philly,” Cuorato said.
Event Network, which operates “cultural attraction stores” across the United States and runs the souvenir store at the visitor center, helped connect the folks at Hershey with the people at the visitor center.