Chocolate House Stands the Test of Time
Founded by James Bayard Kelly ll, Bayard’s Chocolates has been a landmark in South Jersey for ages.
The rush of midday traffic roars incessantly on Route 130 northbound with startling force past Bayard’s Chocolates, which has been doling out candy since 1960, when gas averaged 25¢ a gallon.
During these summer days, the outdoor double swing sits empty. But it’s just a matter of time before a festive character will be waving to passing motorists and beckoning customers inside, where generation after generation have patronized this century-old colonial structure.
The story of Bayard’s is the stuff of folklore.
According to news accounts, the institution was founded by South Jersey native James Bayard Kelly ll in 1939, after Kelly realized his hobby at making candy was pretty good and had become local favorites. His confection business then expanded out of his house with three shops in Cherry Hill, Cinnaminson and Pennsauken.
For nearly 50 years, a factory located on Haddonfield Road behind the Pennsauken shop churned out holiday buttercreams, chocolate-coated pretzels, peanut butter Easter eggs and chewy caramels.
Familiar with the outstanding good name of Bayard’s Chocolates, Frank Glaser, owner of Fralinger’s and James’ Salt Water Taffy companies in Atlantic City, bought Bayard’s and a treasure of recipes in 2004 after Kelly died. Glaser shuttered the Pennsauken store—which didn’t go down well with the regulars—and moved its candy-making business to Atlantic City, said Fran Kozak, the Cinnaminson store manager since 1996.
“I’ve been told that chocolates stores like this just don’t exist in other parts of the United States,” said Kozak. “I just had a woman in from Massachusettes, who told me she wished she had a store like this in her town.”
And therein lies the store’s uniqueness.
Within the Cinnaminson shop, a gargantuan amount of chocolates await visitors, some set in towers, some in geometric circles, all on glass-shelvings held up by brass candlestick holders, as Kelly insisted his candies be displayed, after seeing similar setups in chocolate shops in Europe.
Dramatic chocolate-filled hutches stand against wallpaper adorned with revolutionary scenes of soldiers in colonial Valley Forge.
Each year the faithful return to Bayard’s, as predictable as the seasons, to purchase the confection of the minute.
Kozak said Halloween starts the busy time, when the store sells ghost lollipops, gummy teeth, worms and other bewitching treats.
Then the real stalwarts keep business brisk until after Valentine’s Day, when the store carries chocolate-covered strawberries, with a bit of a lull until the Easter bunny takes a seat at that double swing.
And those chocolate bunnies are the store’s biggest seller, according to Kozak.
“There was a time when we would sell more candy canes and other novelty candies, but they’re not as popular anymore,” said Bobbie Kelly, (no relation to the original owner), a 29-year-veteran worker of Bayard’s, as she meticulously counted and placed candies into gift boxes. “But chocolate stays popular with everyone.”
Since the Glasers took over, the two remaining Bayard’s sell Fralinger’s and James’ salt water taffies, 12 flavors of fudge, Johnson’s Popcorn and macaroons.
As days begin to shorten and leaves turn colors, Kozak and Kelly, along with their staff, will prepare for the nearing holidays. They will welcome old friends, and make new ones, as customers come into the legendary shop.
“Mr. Kelly wanted his stores to feel like a living room,” said Kozak. “The idea was to make everyone feel at home.”