Byline: Lynne Klaft
LANCASTER - Nikki Grivakis was the envy of her classmates and the neighborhood kids because she lived in the candy house on Main Street.
She grew up in the 1885 House of Chocolates, at 808 Main St., and for as long as she can remember, the front room of the family home, normally a living room in any other house, was filled with chocolate-dipped creams, peanut brittle and fudge. There were candy canes during Christmas and chocolate bunnies at Easter.
Her dad, Michael Grivakis, was not only the candy maker in the family; he was the seventh- and eighth-grade Lancaster middle school math teacher.
"I had him as my math teacher. I didn't know what to call him when we were in school," said Ms. Grivakis.
She said she used to sneak her friends into the front room, where they would fill their pockets with candy.
"We found out later, he knew about that," she added.
Mr. Grivakis learned the candy making trade at the age of 14 at the Candy Cottage in Clinton, and opened his own business on Main Street in 1969.
He retired and closed the 1885 House of Chocolates in 2007 after 38 years of making chocolate covered cherries, truffles and genevas.
Ms. Grivakis said she got calls from friends and candy lovers who were very disappointed when they heard the news.
On a 2009 trip to Maine with her friend Allison Carlsen, the pair decided to reopen the shop.
"Allison has been my good friend, and now business partner, since third grade, and although we both have other jobs, she had some time then to learn how to make the candy. And there was lots to learn. By December 2010 we opened the doors," said Ms. Grivakis.
Mr. Grivakis put on both his teaching and candy making hat again and taught Allison and Nikki how to make turtles, pecan and cashew bark, peanut butter cups, and dipped crackers, along with his secret recipes and special techniques that have people coming back for more.
"Oh you should have seen us when we first started. I watched Mike making the chocolates and said, `Sure, I can do that.' Those first batches were disasters, chocolate hardening on our hands, Oreos sticking to the chocolate stuck on our hands. Candy making is not only an art, it's a science," said Ms. Carlsen.
Both women agree that it's not only knowing what temperature the candy cane recipe has to boil at, it's being able to feel the temperature and consistency of the mixture through one's hands and knowing when it is ready to be pulled, rolled, twisted and cut.