By Jennifer Pund
It took Peggy and Bernie Hubner just 11 hours after arriving in Empire to decide to buy Lewis Sweet Shop. Nine years later, they continue to make the store’s signature candy using original recipes, and meeting new people, all while having a lot of fun.
Before relocating to Colorado, the pair found themselves tired of the constant air-conditioned environments of Texas where Bernie owned a small oil and gas business, and Peggy worked as a college and career counselor for more than 4,000 high school students. It was a busy lifestyle of long hours.
“We discovered that we were going from an air-conditioned house, to an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned business, to an air-conditioned restaurant, back to an air-conditioned home,” Peggy explained. “Then Bernie went online and discovered this candy store in the mountains.”
The amazing views, “spectacular weather” and their dreams of having classical music playing in their library-coffee shop were all that were needed to seal the deal of purchasing the business. “Boy were we wrong,” Peggy said, “Lewis Sweet Shop is a full-blown restaurant!”
The creative environment and lively atmosphere screams “fun,” and accurately reflects the Hubners’ personalities. The building is easy to spot with its colorful décor. Live music on the weekends creates a cozy atmosphere often used by locals as a meeting space. There is also a giant JENGA game, chess and checker boards and a permanent hop-scotch court on the sidewalk out front to entertain kids and allow travelers to stretch their legs. A train runs on a track near the ceiling and a 1898 piano is available for anyone willing to tickle the ivories.
Stop in now for this year’s collectable tie-dyed T-shirts that are still available for a limited time. With snowboard seats, graffiti and snapshots on the wall and a dependable friendly greeting, it feels like home as soon as you walk through the vibrantly colored doors.
Dwayne Lewis built the restaurant’s current structure from the bricks of an old school house he purchased in 1949. By 1951 he was serving hot dogs and ice cream to his motel guests at what was then Lewis Dairy King. It all started with the addition of a popcorn machine in 1960 that is still making caramel corn in-house using the “Lewis tradition.” When Lewis passed away in 2011, he was the oldest resident in Empire at the age of 96.
The Hubners kept the recipes and food traditions in tact when they took over in 2005 and still serve the same high-quality, hand-made candies including four types of brittle, glass
candy—like a lollipop without the stick—as well as the world’s longest candy necklace, jawbreakers and Bourbon Red Pepper Brittle known as “Hot Man Candy.” The store’s 40 different candy flavors vary according to the season, but the shelves are always stocked.
If chocolate is what you are craving, look no further. The Bait Box, filled with chocolate covered gummy worms, eight different flavors of bark, hand-dipped Cherry Bombs and different flavored fudge by the pound are just the start. Orange slices, peanut butter cups and “Bear Scat”—chocolate covered potato chips—are also among the top sellers.
The Hubners say nothing outsells the Chocolate Covered Bacon. They can sell upwards of 10 pounds of the applewood smoked bacon on a busy day and often run out. “If we can cover an item in chocolate, we will,” says Bernie.
Lewis Sweet Shop is more than candy and chocolate. Open year round, the menu includes barbecue, burgers, burritos, tacos, veggie burgers, chicken sandwiches cheese-steaks, snow cones and more than 50 different flavors of shakes and malts, which are often about three inches taller than the cup.
The owners’ son Jeff got creative with the PBJ Burger, which is made with peanut butter, bacon, and jelly. “We have lots of repeat customers for that one, it can be quiet messy and it comes with Cheetos,” Peggy explained. Also popular are fried veggies like dill pickles and creamed corn, and don’t forget the dog biscuits for your best friend.
Empire is located on U.S. 40, just off Interstate 70 at exit 232. Whether coming or going to Winter Park, Berthoud Pass and Grand County, Lewis Sweet Shop is a great family stop in all seasons for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an afternoon snack and pick me up.
©MMAC Monthly – Published in September 2014 issue of the MMAC Monhtly