GOSHEN — At Olympia Candy Kitchen, it's not that difficult to document the changes in the business in the 100 years since it started.
There haven't been that many since began at 136 N. Main St. in Goshen as The Columbia, or something like that, in 1912, according to 89-year-old Lamar Paflas. His dad, Nick Paflas, and one of Nick's cousins bought it in 1923 and renamed it Olympia Candy Kitchen, honoring their Greek heritage.
This week, Olympia's 100th anniversary will be honored in a number of ways. Today, Dec. 3., members of the family that has owned and operated it for four generations are going to Indianapolis to receive an award from the Indiana Historical Society. Friday night, Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman will honor Olympia, and a state award will also be presented before the lighting of the city Christmas tree. The ceremony will happen at the corner of Main and Washington streets as part of First Friday.
The honors mark the history, but so does the Olympia itself. Not much has changed over the years. Those wood booths attached to the walls were installed in 1928 or 1929, according to Paflas. The booths in the middle of the dining area replaced tables in 1946, he said.
The counter behind which breakfast and lunch items are prepared was installed in 1954. The old-timers weren't sure adding french fries was a good idea. Nearly 50 years later, they're still on the menu.
The marble slab in the back kitchen where candy is made was where Lamar's mother Leona would put him when he was sleeping while she worked. It's still central to the candy making that the fourth generation of the Paflas family is carrying out.
Lamar grew up there and, other than a stint in the Air Force in World War II, he has spent his entire life there. He's eaten a bit of chocolate nearly every day of his life. Apparently the health claims about it being good for you in moderation are true.
Lamar sold the shop to his daughter Kathy Andersen in 1982. Now she's selling it to Kare Andersen, who grew up in the shop as well, went to college, moved way and had a desk job. But he came back about 10 years ago and has been managing it the last few years.
“It's been wonderful,” he said. “It's really neat because of the history.”
In the 1930s, the family started making and selling chocolate turtles, Lamar said. Eighty years later, they're the biggest seller. The big hunks of caramel, pecans and chocolate are shipped all over the United States and travel the world carrying the Olympia logo on the box.
Not everything is the same. They don't make their own ice cream to serve from the soda fountain anymore. Some of the candies, such as anise-flavored candy canes, aren't made and sold anymore.
But the family still makes candy canes one day a year to sell this time of year. About 30 types of chocolates are made in the back kitchen and sold from the old wood and glass cases in the front. I'm partial to the maple creams.
The family doesn't keep close track of how many chocolates they make or sell and they don't broadcast what they do know, but let's just say they melt truckloads of chocolate and sell tons. They make and sell dark chocolate versions now.
Kare has introduced some subtle changes, like sausage gravy on the breakfast menu that is served all day. He put in a dishwasher, but the shop/restaurant doesn't have a public restroom and it's a question of whether it ever will.
The breakfast and lunch items are straightforward, but you can find gems you won't find elsewhere. The olive nut sandwich has been on the menu for decades. Lamar doesn't remember a time it wasn't. And he doesn't know who created it. But the mix of from-scratch mayonnaise, green olives and cashews on toast is unlikely and remarkable. The chili is good Midwestern ground-beef and tomato soup. The eggs, toast and omelets at breakfast are adequately done and served on Sunday mornings when there are few other local places open.
Many of the customers at Olympia have been going for years. Many of the employees are second- or third-generation employees. Kathy loves that part of the business. “That's just fun. That please me probably more than anything,” she said. “We're like one big family, really.”
There are stories about how couples met there or had receptions there are being married across the street at the Elkhart County Courthouse.
Lamar knows many, many stories and can still surprise his family. During our interview last week, he talked of a fire that started next door in an upstairs bowling alley in 1946, but a firewall kept it from spreading to the candy shop.
The Paflas family can tell stories about their business and what it's meant to them. This week, others will say what it's meant to Goshen.
Congratulations on 100 years. You've made Goshen a sweeter place to live.
I'm hungry. Let's eat.
If You Go
What: Olympia Candy Kitchen
Where: 136 N. Main St., Goshen
Fare: American breakfast and lunch items, soda fountain, from-scratch chocolates and candies
Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 7 to 3 Saturday and 9 to 1 Sunday. Closed Wednesday
Details: No public restroom, limited handicapped accessibility, credit cards accepted, no smoking.