OCEAN CITY — More than a century after opening on the Boardwalk, Dolle’s Candyland is still making candy in Ocean City and considering expanding to new areas.
According to co-owner Anna Dolle Bushnell, however, even if the company reaches out to new markets, it will never leave Ocean City.
“We’ll continue to be a staple in Ocean City, a tradition,” said Bushnell.
Celebrating its 101st anniversary this year, Dolle’s has upgraded their operations more than a few times since they opened their doors in 1910. But Bushnell revealed that ingredients and recipes that her great-grandfather used are still part of Dolle’s today.
“It’s consistent,” she said, adding that, except for gummies, all of the candy in the store is made on site.
“You know where it comes from…It’s all made from scratch,” said Bushnell.
Along with producing the majority of candy right at the store, Bushnell also explained that Dolle’s tries to get ingredients locally, with chocolate coming from Pennsylvania, sugar from Baltimore and butter from Salisbury.
Keeping things as local as possible has been a company strategy for years, said Bushnell, and is part of an overall effort to be a community candy shop.
In keeping with that, this fall Dolle’s is releasing a special batch of “trick-or-treat” taffy that is already becoming popular.
“We sold 100 pounds in a day,” Bushnell reported.
Besides introducing the taffy this year, Bushnell said Dolle’s will be bringing back pumpkin-flavored fudge, another popular Halloween item.
“That’s a huge thing for us,” she said of the fudge.
According to Bushnell, holidays have been and always will be a focal point for Dolle’s.
“It’s the time we can get creative with things,” she said. “We can get a little artsy with it.”
While the holiday boost and Internet orders help Dolle’s do steady business all year, Bushnell acknowledged that the massive influx of visitors to Ocean City every summer make for the bulk of their sales. While the yo-yo of operating in a seasonal resort town can be manic, Bushnell said the Ocean City business community more than makes up for it.
“It’s a very nice network … so many people support you,” she said, explaining that instead of being cutthroat competition, most of the candy stores in town work with each other to promote the business in general. “It’s like an extended family sometimes.”
But even with the cooperative environment, the stores do still compete, and Bushnell believes there are several things that set Dolle’s apart from the pack.
“It’s 100 percent family,” she said of the business. “This is our life.”
Along with her brother and father, Bushnell said her family encourages long-term employees.
“We’ve had employees here for 30 years,” she said.
And despite having to work in close-quarters every day, the family doesn’t mix business with personal life and Bushnell asserted that there is little-to-no infighting.
“It works,” she said of the arrangement. “We’re still a tight nit family … We see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.”
After growing steadily for more than 100 years, Bushnell said that expansion in the near future could happen. With two stores already in Ocean City, she believes Dolle’s might eventually open a new location in a completely different area, though no plans are in action right now. But even if they do expand, Bushnell doesn’t want Dolle’s to become a franchise while there’s still family to run it.
“We just can’t go too big,” she said.
Whether Bushnell’s children or other relatives will want to take over the business when the current management retires is unknown. And that’s a decision Bushnell swears she won’t try to influence.
“My brother and I were never forced into it,” she said.