By Julie Tomascik

Hard candy—it’s the age-old sweet taste of Christmas. And one that’s steeped in tradition for my husband’s family.

Every December, you’ll find them with gloves on, ready to make—and eat—hard candy.

It’s a family legacy, started by “PawPaw” Vito Riola when he bought the candy-making shop in Cameron in 1930.

Every year since then, friends and family have enjoyed the bounty of his skill.

Striped or solid. Cinnamon, lemon, peppermint, licorice and more. You name it, they can make it. And do so using equipment nearly a century old.

And when you hear the roar of boiling sugar and the intense smell of flavors in the air, you know Christmas candy is on the way.

It’s a skilled dance, one the extended Riola clan knows well. From the boiling pot to cooling on the table, intricate steps take the sugary start to flavored candy.


The experienced crew stretches the candy to enhance the color. I mean, who doesn’t like brightly colored candy? Then, they massage it, working out the air bubbles and prepping it for the remaining steps.


The result? Nearly 400 pounds of candy.


They operate like a fairly well-oiled machine. Family members rotate in and out of the hottest parts of the kitchen. The little ones sample and approve.

Though none of them will claim to be half the master of PawPaw Vito, the legacy will live on through the unique flavors and stripes that make the candy kitchen come alive for Christmas each year.