Southern Indiana

A lot can happen over the course of 130 years, and the Schimpff family has the stories to prove it.

Schimpff’s Confectionery, a candy shop along Jeffersonville’s historic downtown strip, has weathered more storms than most businesses. Since opening in the late 19th century, it’s survived several wars, the Great Depression, the 1937 Ohio River flood and two pandemics.

But Schimpff’s has also had its fair share of good times. The shop’s been featured on national television and welcomed guests from all over the world. Its tasty treats have even been enjoyed by past United States presidents.

“I think that’s one reason people come here, it’s a little point of stability,” said Jill Schimpff, who owns the Jeffersonville landmark with her husband Warren. “They know that when coming in here, things have been more or less the same for a long, long time… It’s nice to know that we foster this feeling of preservation.”

J. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

Jill Schimpff describes the historic techniques that Schimpff’s Confectionery has used to make their cinnamon Red Hots for 130 years

The candy connoisseurs celebrated the 130th anniversary of Schimpff’s Confectionery on Sunday. Warren Schimpff’s great-grandfather and grandfather opened the shop in 1891. It’s been in the same location, at 347 Spring St., since then.

Jill and Warren bought the business in 1990. They’ve since expanded it to include the neighboring building, but their hand-crafted specialties and old-fashioned charm have stayed the same.

J. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

Schimpff’s Confectionery, a historic candy store and museum in Jeffersonville, IN, has survived two pandemics during its 130 years in business.

“I’ve never worked so hard as when we took over the business to keep it going and keep it in the family,” Warren said. “But I’ve never had such joy in my life as knowing that we’re keeping the family business going. We’re keeping history alive here on Spring Street – family history and community history.”

Schimpff’s has successfully navigated through many leadership changes and hardships over the years. Warren said the worst obstacle in the shop’s history was the 1937 flood, when the Ohio River reached the building’s second floor.

COVID-19 is the most recent challenge, but it isn’t the first pandemic the family business has faced. It also made it through the 1918 flu. The coronavirus has created financial difficulties for many families and businesses, and Schimpff’s is no different.

Warren said that became apparent when sales tanked last Easter, which he called “devastating.” But he was confident the business would bounce back.

“Throughout history, things have persisted, and we just felt good that we would be able to survive this and weather the storm,” Warren said.

J. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

Jill and Warren Schimpff offer a live demonstration of the making of their famous cinnamon Red Hots using the same recipe and techniques that Schimpff’s Confectionery has used for 130 years.

And he was right. When Easter came back around earlier this month, sales were normal again.

Jill credits the success of Schimpff’s to the hard-working staff and loyal customers, along with the many lessons the family has passed down through the generations.

“That’s what being in business for 130 years gives you,” she said. “You just can’t think of anything but one foot in front of the other and keep on going.”

During a normal year, Warren said as many as 50,000 people visit Schimpff’s Confectionery. But he said the shop continues to attract new guests from the area every year. He recommends first-time visitors try Schimpff’s signature red hots, of which they produced 20,000 pounds last year.

J. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

Schimpff’s Confectionery, a historic candy store and museum in Jeffersonville, IN, has survived two pandemics during its 130 years in business.

In the future, Warren plans to hand over the business to his cousin’s children. But even when new ownership takes over, he said the legacy his family established more than a century ago will carry on.

“It’s what you remember seeing in Willy Wonka,” he said. “It’s what you envision a historic candy store to be.”

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.