On a regular Thursday afternoon in the town of Jordan, Minnesota, two young boys are standing in the middle of a giant yellow barn, surrounded by every kind of candy imaginable and having a very important debate.
“Okay, if you could only get one, would you get a gummy snake or alien?” one boy asks.
“GET THEM BOTH!” the other one shouts.
Welcome to Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store.
Since 2002, the store has been a real-life Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory (sans the actual manufacturing of the candy) with thousands of candies, sodas, and other treats from all over the globe.
Jerry Kornder, better known around the store as “Jerry the Soda Guy,” has worked in the barn for the last four years, and has watched as it’s grown into a cultural wonderland.
“We’ve got different rooms with different themes,” he says while walking through the seemingly never-ending aisles of novelties. One room is known as “Gotham,” and features life-sized statues of Batman, the Joker, and a cast of other superheroes. One of the next rooms, known as “The Planetarium,” has a rotating ceiling adorned in stars, planets, and spaceships. In between are giant popcorn buckets, a real-life Zoltar machine straight from the movie “Big,” and an eight-foot-tall statue of the Incredible Hulk.
Oh, and there’s candy too.
Whether you’re interested in stuffing your face with Champagne-flavored cotton candy, exercising your jaw on an assortment of taffy, or shocking your tastebuds with pickle-flavored gummies, every turn unveils a new and unique sugary surprise.
These days, Kornder estimates that more than 600,000 visitors come through the store each year between mid-May and the end of November. But it wasn’t always the cornucopia of candy that it is today.
“This was originally just an apple farm,” Kornder explains. “Then about 12 years ago a hail storm did a lot of damage. The owner sold the apples at a reduced rate to help pay to fix it up but then decided to start selling candy too.”
The apple business is still booming at the big yellow barn, where visitors can get bags of apples, pies, and caramel apples, along with other locally sourced fruits, salsas, and meats, to name a few of the many items available for purchase. But candy takes centerstage.
With more than 3,000 varieties of candy, the store is constantly looking for new flavors and offerings to keep customers coming back. “Everyone who comes in here wants something fun,” Kornder says. “Sometimes they come in with a special request for something really unique or unusual, and if we don’t have it in the store, we’ll do our best to find it and order it.”
For those who want to drink their sugar rush, there are more than 1,500 varieties of sodas on the shelves. As the official “soda guy” of the shop, Kornder prides himself on finding the strangest concoctions ever put in bottles, including bacon, cookie dough, and popcorn-flavored sodas. In addition, the soda selection can sometimes be less about flavor and more about packaging.
“We ordered a bunch of Trump and Hillary sodas back at the election time, and we sold out of all of it,” Kornder says, pointing to a bottle of “Make America Grape Again,” adorned with President Trump’s face. “So I called the manufacturer back and asked if they could make more for us, and they did.”
In addition to the strange and unusual, there are a number of treats available from all corners of the globe. Whether you want a green tea Kit Kat from Japan or a roll of biscuits from England, chances are they’ve got it.
While others have inquired about utilizing the store’s name and likeness for other locations or money-making opportunities, the big yellow barn has no plans of leaving Jordan anytime soon.
“There’s a swamp on one side of us and a highway on the other,” Kornder laughs. “It’s not about getting bigger and bigger I don’t think. It’s more about making the most of the space and keeping this as a place people want to come back to year after year.”