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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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Ocean City’s Oldest Boardwalk Business Has Served Sweets for a Century 

In Ocean City, there’s a name you’ll hear over and over when it comes to saltwater taffy and fudge: Shriver’s. And with good reason. Shriver’s Saltwater Taffy and Fudge opened in 1898 and is the oldest business in Ocean City, with an outstanding selection of candies and sweet treats. Only Douglass Fudge, which opened in 1919 in Wildwood, can match their longevity. We spoke with the folks who make the sweet treats happen year after year.

Delicious beginnings

It all began in 1898 when William Shriver opened Shriver’s as a candy store and ice cream parlor at 9th Street and the Boardwalk. Saltwater taffy had recently been invented—not by Shriver and not in Ocean City, but by a man named David Bradley, who worked just up the road in Atlantic City. Douglass Fudge, in Wildwood,

Shriver had the business until the late 1950s, when the Glaser brothers, who owned Dairy Maid Confectionery Company in Philadelphia, purchased it. They chose to keep the appellation “Shriver” since it already had such great name recognition and, well, it was already on the building.

Meryl and Blu Vangelov are the owners of Shriver’s today. Henry Glaser, one of the four brothers, was Meryl’s grandfather. The Vangelovs purchased the business from her mother, Virginia Berwick, and uncle, Henry Glaser Jr., in 2010.

Meryl literally grew up in the business. Which leads to a sweet story…

Sweet, sweet love

In 2001, a young Meryl had been working at Shriver’s for years when a new employee joined the ranks: the handsome Blu Vangelov. Both were working in production—he was making fudge while she was also acting as manager for the first time.

Blu caught Meryl’s eye immediately. Within 18 months, the two were married.

“It was a recipe for the ‘sweetest’ combination we have had at Shriver’s,” says Meryl happily.

Today they have two grown boys, Adrian, 20, and Neven, 17, who work in the candy store with their parents. 

Nonpareil taste

Meryl says that their fudge and salt water taffy are “absolutely the best sellers.” She even goes as far to say that they are “the best in the world.”

Thousands of fudge and taffy eaters would agree. In season, Shriver’s on the O.C. Boardwalk gest thousands of people in the store daily, carefully inspecting every square inch of the store, which is filled floor-to-ceiling with colorful concoctions of confections both made in-house and by other vendors.

“We are always working on our own new products and bringing in new products by others,” says Meryl, who notes that quality and popularity are high on the list of what they look for from outside vendors. Although there are other reasons, too.

“Sometimes it’s just what I crave,” she laughs. 

Originally there were 17 flavors of Shriver’s taffy. Now the store boasts more than 70. Meryl can’t really name a favorite flavor of hers—it changes day by day. Right now, she is enjoying their new chocolate-covered taffy–particularly the strawberry. The family likes to play around and explore various flavor creations, though admittedly, they don’t all work. 

A holiday display at Shriver’s.

“Oh, we’ve had some failures,” she laughs. “We tried bourbon and Champagne flavors. They just didn’t taste good. They never even made it to the floor.” 

Meryl says there is always “something new brewing” in the fudge department, and that this year, the family is focusing on making more of their own chocolates, such as chocolate mint sticks and peanut butter-flavored nonpareils.

There are some candies, Meryl admits, that they simply cannot create, due to either a lack of machinery or store space. However, they are working on acquiring some new equipment to be less dependent on others for chocolates and candies.

The birth of Mr. Taffy

Shriver’s has grown over time, but kept its early beauty. It is important to the Vangelov family that the business maintains its classic look and feel while keeping it up to date.

“We like people to sense the nostalgia of Shriver’s when they enter,” she says.

One of the more nostalgic offerings at Shriver’s is in the back of the store, where customers can spy employees making their famous saltwater taffy, fudge and chocolate.

“We are hoping to give people a great experience by seeing how candy is made,” says Meryl.

However, before you get to the back of the store, you must go through the front, and that’s where kids of all ages have regaled in the delightful, mechanized dolls—justly named “Taffy” (the girl doll) and “Fudge” (the boy)—in the storefront window.

“We have customers staring at our windows watching these dolls flip for…well, a very long time,” says Meryl. “We have even had machine experts just stand at the window and watch the dolls. They can’t believe it.”

The enormous Shriver’s taffy balloons that Boardwalk-goers can see folks carrying from blocks away was one of Meryl’s uncle’s ideas. He wanted a mascot for Shriver’s and Meryl, who went to art, sketched some designs and, voila! It was the birth of “Mr. Taffy.” Meryl went one step further and wrote a book about Mr. Taffy aptly titled, “The Birth of Mr. Taffy,” which is sold at Shriver’s.

Living the dream

Meryl commonly hears that she has a dream job. Working with her husband and two sons is definitely a big part of it. To be surrounded by the aroma of sweet, decadent fudge, taffy and a plethora of other tongue-pleasing delights day in and day out is, without a doubt, another.

She admits that it is a fun profession, but it’s still very much a business, one in which she has learned many lessons. Patience, being among the top.

As a true family business, Meryl is grateful for the love and support she has received from everyone who has been involved with Shriver’s throughout the decades. This extends to her customers who return annually, as well, and who often dispense stories of how much Shriver’s has meant to them throughout the years.

“So many people will call and talk to us about their memories,” she says. “I hold that very dear and so does my husband. It’s very special to us hearing a customer talk about how memorable their experience was at Shriver’s.”

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