The woman: Pam Teich, fifth-generation owner of Lammes Candies, Austin’s hometown candy shop since 1885.
The mission: Keep Austin sweet.
The commitment: “My siblings and I grew up in this shop.”
Top 3 ways she’ll change your life:
- Savor the rich history of Austin, one confection at a time.
- No matter how rough things get, you can always scrape together a few quarters for the comfort of a candy.
- The signature Texas Chewie Pecan Praline is made from a recipe so secret, it’s not even written down. We could all use a little mystery in our lives.
In sum: More than 127 years ago, Lammes Candies opened on Congress Avenue and made the capital city a whole lot sweeter. If you lived in Austin then, you sure as heck knew Lammes – and to know it was to love it. Some things never change.
Behind the scenes
It is 11:13 a.m. and I am experiencing the snap, burst, and then rich melting taste of my first chocolate-dipped grape. It’s transcendent, really. After another two (or twelve), I am hopelessly addicted. It is all I can do not to drive right back to the cheery storefront I’ve just left: bins of bright gummy candies, display cases lined with chocolate confections, and of course, chocolate-dipped grapes. Those grapes.
Pam Teich warned me about this.
At least he didn’t bet the farm
Teich and her siblings, Bryan Teich and Lana Schmidt, are fifth-generation owners of Lammes Candies Since 1885, Inc. But even before it had that name, the family was in the candy business.
In 1878, when the only traffic on Austin’s main street was drawn by horses, William Lamme opened the Red Shirt Candy Factory on dusty Congress Avenue. Besides a confectioner, Mr. Lamme was apparently a gambling man – and not a very lucky one. In 1885, he lost the candy factory in a poker game.
David Turner Lamme, Sr. must’ve been a strong candidate for Son of the Year in 1885. He was living in Ohio when he got word of his father’s blunder. He up and moved to Texas, paid the $800 gambling debt, and reclaimed ownership of his family’s confectionary legacy. Father and son reopened as Lammes Candies later that year.
It was great news for Austin. In the 127 years since, Lammes Candies has racked up a number of firsts for our city. It housed the first soda shop in Texas. It hung Austin’s first neon sign, the smiling lamb logo that still instructs newcomers how to pronounce the family name. The family installed the first ammonia refrigeration unit in the southwest, and the first hermetically sealed glass doors on Congress Avenue. When times were tough, they sold vegetables and tamales from a street cart out front.
They scrapped by, innovated, took care of their own, and, in general, represented everything we pride in our Austin establishments.
Today, by Teich’s best guess, Lammes Candies is the longest-running family business in Austin. (A box of Longhorns to anyone who can prove it – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The secret to success is actually a secret
As is the case with many small businesses, part of Lammes’ continued success has to do with their willingness to evolve. The candy shop started with fudge and divinity candy; added ice cream and then phased it out after World War II sugar rationing; moved onto chocolate; and today, experiments with new products like sea salt caramels and habanero pralines.
But one confection remains Austin’s darling. After he bought back the business in 1885, David Turner Lamme, Sr. got to work on a secret recipe. After seven arduous years, he’d perfected it: Lammes’ best-selling Texas Chewie Pecan Praline.
I ask where the secret recipe is stored. Is there a vault?
“I don’t even think it’s written down,” she says. Today, only her brother and Lammes’ plant manager, John – who, after 25 or so years of employment, is something of a brother, too – know it.
Whether or not she’s just trying to throw me off the trail, it’s clear that this family takes candy seriously.
You finally got to Austin. Now act like you’ve been here the whole time.
By the 1980s, Lammes Candies had been a bona fide Austin establishment for a full century, and you would’ve been hard-pressed to find an Austinite who wasn’t intimately familiar with their sweet, sweet wares. But with the city’s population boom, a wave of newcomers are making their acquaintance for the first time. Teich is focused on reaching out to transplants.
“Now that you’ve made it to Austin, we want to be your new hometown candy shop,” Teich says.
Lammes Candies produces about 1200 pounds of candy a day at its Airport Boulevard manufacturing center (relocated from the original Congress Avenue location years back). Better get started if you want to make a dent.
“I love what we do,” Teich says. “We’re not selling widgets — we’re selling pleasure.”
“There’s a nice thing about candy as an industry,” she muses. “When we go through rocky periods, candy is a source of comfort. You can come in for just one Longhorn or a truffle, and for very little money, give yourself some comfort.”
Since 1878 the shop has weathered everything from the Great Depression to the recent economic downturn – a fine legacy of candy and comfort.
Despite the occasional foolhardy bet, William Lamme’s greatest gamble is still paying off. Lucky us.
Visit lammes.com for the addresses of Lammes Candies’ five Austin-area store fronts, or to browse or order from the catalog. Stay connected (read: learn when chocolate-dipped strawberries and grapes are in season) on their Facebook page.