In a space that looks like a warehouse in the back of a Hatboro candy shop, Sean Shanahan ignites the flame beneath a 40-year-old copper vat.

Holding a long wooden paddle, Shanahan, 30, an apprentice at the family-owned Stutz Candy Co., adds a few more ingredients to his cauldron. Butter. A bit more sugar. And even more heavy cream.

Then, he stirs.

This is the beginning of fudge, 64 pounds of glop, churned until it bubbles.

It has been the same inelegant start for that classic summer indulgence since the Stutz family started making its version in 1938.

"This is authentic candy-making," said Shanahan's boss, Paul Bugg, watching as his student takes the reins.

Stutz, with about a half-dozen employees in its modest manufacturing plant, creates and packages a kaleidoscopic range of confections: buttercreams, caramel marshmallows, orange jellies, chocolate-covered nuts.

And fudge - up to 10 flavors during summer, as much as 700 pounds per week. Chocolate, vanilla walnut, milk chocolate almond, two-layer chocolate peanut butter.

This year, that fudge has a new place to go.

For the first time since Hurricane Sandy washed over New Jersey three years ago, Stutz has a shop open down the Shore, on Long Beach Island.

It's the company's third store - down from its mid-20th-century heyday of six, and a humble operation compared with the confectioner conglomerates that dominate a $35 billion industry.

Still, owner Rich Knappick, whose family first bought into Stutz in 1965, has a proud crew producing sumptuous, mouthwatering treats.

"Forget 'made in the U.S.A.,' " says Hatboro store manager Kim Wengert. "This is made in Hatboro."

For Knappick, sweets are practically a birthright.

His family, the Glasers, first launched a candy company in the 1880s. Eventually, he said, that company became Philadelphia's Dairy Made Confectionery, which went on to acquire several regional confectioners, including Stutz, Shriver's Salt Water Taffy in Ocean City, and James Candy Co. in Atlantic City.

Knappick said one of his most vivid childhood memories is of tossing salt water taffy out a second-story Atlantic City window at the Miss America contestants on the Boardwalk.

Candy was "in my blood from that point on," he said with a chuckle.

Knappick's uncle John Glaser ran Stutz for three decades, until about 2012, Knappick said. At that point, Knappick, 57, who as an adult helped out at Stutz while working primarily at a cement company, stepped in and took over full-time.

One of the first hurdles was figuring out what to do about the Shore.

Knappick's uncle had sold Stutz's longtime LBI location after Sandy, when the shop took on at least 30 inches of water and was badly damaged.

Knappick, who wanted to keep a presence on LBI, eventually found a new location, at Long Beach Boulevard and 25th Street in Ship Bottom. He thought he and his crew would be able to launch last year. But an overhead pipe burst before opening, and the entire 2014 season was flooded out.

"It's been a long road," Knappick said.

Still, they've made it through: The Stutz LBI store finally opened over the weekend, and will sell chocolates, ice cream, gummies, and, of course, fudge, which is said to have originated on the East Coast sometime in the 1880s.

Knappick is relieved but says the full weight of emotions hasn't yet set in.

For now, he simply hopes the store can help drive sales over the summer, to balance out the company's reliance on Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter.

Bugg, who has made Stutz candy for three decades, can already tell the difference.

The prep work has picked up, he said, and fudge is flying out the door.

But the volume doesn't bother his three-man candy-making crew.

"I like working with my hands," Bugg said. "You get to see something when you're done. You get to make something."

With that, the fudge in the warehouse has cooled, and Kerwin Subero - Bugg's right-hand man - scooped it out of the copper vat and onto a flat pan.

The mix will congeal overnight, and will be scored for sale the next day.

Soon, another batch of fudge will begin.

BY THE NUMBERS

StartText

$35B

worth of confections are sold each year in the United States.

$21B

of that is chocolate.

1,000

confectioners are operating in the United States.

700

pounds of fudge is made by Stutz every week in the summer.

10

flavors of Stutz fudge are available in the summer.

SOURCE: National Confectioners Association, Stutz Candy Co.

EndText

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