Philip’s Confectionery opened in Port Richmond 2 years ago, after serving sweets to Brooklyn residents for 70 some years
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
By DIANE C. LORE
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
Philip’s Confectionery is a sensory delight and, ironically, it’s your nose, not your mouth, that takes in the very first treat. Open the door to this Port Richmond sweet shop and you’re awash in the pungent smell of fresh-roasted nuts, fresh popcorn, candied apples, peanut butter clusters, chocolate fudge and sugar-spun cotton candy.
It’s the smell of candy and confections made the old-fashioned way, by hand, which is the way Philip’s has been doing things for 70 years, back when it first became a Coney Island landmark. Had the candy shop at Surf Avenue and the boardwalk in Brooklyn not been forced out to make way for the reconstruction of the Stillwell Avenue subway station, Staten Islanders might never have gotten the opportunity to see a real carnival-style sweet-shop in action. But two years ago, Philip’s, like so many others from Brooklyn, made the move, crossing the Verrazano Bridge and reopening at 8 Barrett Ave, just a stone’s throw from Forest Avenue near Forest Avenue Shoppers Town.
The two responsible for the goodies dished up at Philip’s are 74-year-old Staten Island native John Dorman of Randall Manor, and his partner, Peggy Cohn of Brooklyn.
Dorman was a skinny student at McKee High School in 1947 when he went to work part-time for Philip Calermares, wiping up the counter and mopping the floors in Calermares’ self-named candy shop in Brooklyn. It took Dorman three hours to travel to Coney Island by ferry and subway back then, and three hours to get home. During summers, when the store stayed open after dark, he’d often find himself rolling home after midnight.
On steamy weekends in July and August, when upwards of 1 million people would visit the famed Coney Island boardwalk, the store would be crowded beyond belief. It wasn’t long before Dorman graduated from mopping the counter to serving up vanilla egg creams and counting out candied apples, salt water taffy and hand-made fudge. And it wasn’t much longer before he learned to make the stuff, stirring up just the right combination of sticky sugar, corn syrup and other ingredients over a fiery-hot stove in the back of the store.
When, in the mid-1960s, it came time for Calermares to retire, Dorman was only too happy to buy him out. He went into partnership with Ms. Cohn, but kept the shop’s original name. Like Dorman, Ms. Cohn, 59, had been working at Philip’s since she was in high school.
Dorman and his partner may be in a new location, but they are wedded to their old ways. They still have the original Coney Island cash register of heavy, red metal in the Port Richmond store. It clangs when Dorman rings up a sale. They also have the original scale used to weigh fudge, taffy, and nut clusters. "This scale’s about 50 years old. If you put a dime on it, the scale will weigh it," says Dorman. He demonstrates by placing a single chocolate-covered grape on the scale and watching the needle register.
In one corner of the window is an eye-catching wooden carousel horse, another reminder of the store’s boardwalk beginnings. Dorman and Ms,19,95159,0,14343,184.108.40.206
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