Written by Lyn Dobrin Saturday, 08 March 2014 00:00
It’s a family affair for the Winters of Port Washington when they make pilgrimages to Bobb Howard’s General Store in New Hyde Park. “There’s something in that store for everyone,” says Tracy Winters, who has been a customer of this retro candy and toy store for eight years. Tracy goes for the Astro Pops, husband Michael gets Marshmallow Twists and Tracy’s mother, Phyllis Heller of Bellmore, can’t resist the Goldenberg Peanut Chews. Jake, Tracy’s older son, isn’t a candy lover so he gravitates to the old-time toys and nostalgia posters.
Jamie Waller of Queens says it made him feel like a kid again when he saw the wall of candy with treats from the 1990s and 1950s sitting next to each other. “Anything you can possibly want is there,” he says. For Jamie, a big treat is Circus Peanuts, peanut-shaped marshmallows. “My dad used to love them when he was a kid,” he says.
The store, which was a convenience shop attached to the family-owned gasoline station, was turned by Eileen and Ronnie Wysel into a candy store in 1993. The couple tries to keep the store stocked with every type of candy manufactured in the United States. In the unlikely event that they don’t have a customer’s request, “We’ll launch a nation wide search to find it,” says Eileen. For years, they had to respond to requests for certain candies, such as Delfa Rolls (a thin red licorice also known as Danish Ribbons) with “Sorry, they’re no longer being manufactured.” But Delfa Rolls came back a few years ago, as well as Bonomo Turkish Taffy, and they have them in good supply at the store.
The small shop, packed with candies from all decades and old-time toys, attracts customers from Nassau, Suffolk and Queens. One wall holds 180 jars of retro and current candies. The rest—over 400 different kinds—are found on the crowded counter and throughout the store.
Numerous old-time toys are packed in—original metal Slinkys, Duncan yo-yos, classic lunch boxes, retired Bobbleheads, and Leave It To Beaver and I Love Lucy trading cards, to name just a few. A personal favorite of the Wysels (also popular with baby boomers) are
robots that are part of an adult collector’s series inspired by the tin toys and movies of the past. It is a wind-up with an on/off switch, and as it walks, sparks fly inside the face mask. “It is a true memory of what toys used to be,” says Eileen.
“They put their hearts and souls into that place,” says Myra Cohen Picard, of Huntington Village. Myra reconnected with Eileen a few years ago at Myra’s 44th reunion at Westbury High School. Both had attended, although Eileen was two years behind. Now Myra brings her car to be serviced at the shop next door and visits whenever she can. “It’s hard to get my grandchildren out of there,” she says and for her, it brings back her childhood.
So what’s the candy or toy from your childhood? Bobb Howard’s will probably have it. And while you’re looking through the store, they’ll show you howto make fresh popcorn in their 1940s popcorn machine; they’ll even give you the dime.