Main Street's Parkside Candy gears up for Valentine’s Day
Donald McPhail, better known as “The Candy Man,” is an 80-year-old deliveryman at Parkside Candy, located on the corner of Main Street and Winspear Avenue. He says that even though his family thinks that he’s too old to be working, he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else.
Making people happy is a perk of the profession.
“I was at the Southgate plaza two years ago and I saw this woman walking down the street with a baby carriage and two little ones beside her and I’m thinking, ‘She ain’t got no money to buy chocolate.’ So I went to her and I asked her really nicely, I said, ‘Do you mind if I put three chocolate buffalos in a bag for the kids?’ and she just lit up,” McPhail said.
Parkside Candy has chocolate as well as soups and sandwiches.
Parkside Candy, located just down the street from South Campus, is currently preparing for their shortest season, but biggest day for sales of the year: Valentine’s Day. Phil Buffamonte, owner and president of Parkside Candy since 1981, said the store will sell most of its Valentine’s Day candy either Saturday or on Valentine’s Day itself on Sunday.
One of Parkside Candy’s more popular gifts for Valentines Day are their engraved chocolate hearts that customers can get their significant other’s name frosted onto. For those who don’t eat chocolate, the store also has fruity and gummy candies, and for those that don’t partake in sweets at all, Parkside Candy also serves sandwiches and soups every day.
Parkside Candy was established in Buffalo in 1927 and has had two different owners in its history. The store has five locations across Buffalo and although its website has helped expand its sales, owners say more people walk into the store than shop online.
McPhail said, “Walk any place in Buffalo and mention Parkside Candy and people know exactly what you’re talking about.”
But Buffamonte admits that the store doesn’t attract many college students from UB because students don’t really know about the store. He said that most of the store’s business comes from people who grew up in north Buffalo and come back for the holidays.
Connie Reynolds, secretary at Parkside Candy, said she has seen some students coming into the store recently for Valentine’s Day though. She said they most usually buy small pieces of candy for their significant others. She’s also seen a lot more male students come in to buy something for their girlfriend or a couple will walk in together to browse.
Buffamonte said Valentine’s Day hasn’t changed much over the years, other than customers are no longer buying big fancy decorated chocolate hearts anymore.
“Now they buy more of the smaller gift baskets and boxes of chocolate,” Buffamonte said.
“If you wanted somebody’s attention back in the day you could probably just buy somebody a chocolate rose and give it to them,” Reynolds said. “Now with the Internet I don’t even know what you would do.”
McPhail said that he never bought chocolate in his youth and that his wife of 58 years is “not too fussy on these holiday things like getting chocolate.”
“She doesn’t even eat chocolate,” he said.
Some student are finding other ways to show their significant other they’re appreciate for Valentine’s Day.
Whitney Cunz, a senior social sciences major, said her and her boyfriend of two years still haven’t spoken about what they are going to do for Valentine’s Day but, whatever it is, it’ll probably be small and personal.
Cunz said Valentine’s Day is less about superficial gestures like gifts and more about spending time with your loved ones. Last year Cunz and her boyfriend went to the Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant in Buffalo.
“Cunz said her and her boyfriend’s very first Valentine’s Day as a couple was in New York City. Because the couple was low on money, they decided to not buy each other gifts. They ate out at a restaurant and split the bill.
Since then, the couple has always tried to make time for each other in both grandiose and simple gestures.
Buffamonte said after Valentine’s Day there is still product left over that can’t be melted back down but is still quality chocolate. Parkside Candy will sometimes take the chocolate down to the city mission or different organizations like soup kitchens.
McPhail, who owned a lumber business before delivering candy for Parkside, said he enjoys working, even prefers it, to pursuing a life of luxury. He likes comfort and nice cars as much as the next guy, but McPhail said he’s a man of specific tastes.
“It about not just women though, its about men too,” McPhail said. “Money isn’t gonna buy you love. Its about the way you treat people.”
Tomas Oliver is a features desk editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org