Westchester’s own Willy Wonka duo, Donna Halperin and Bill Vogel, are visibly passionate about seeking out the finest candy and chocolates for their store. Boasting high quality goodies from near and far, Imagine Candy in Scarsdale Village has been tantalizing palates for two and a half years and counting.
Imagine Candy was born out of Bill’s imagination, hence, the store’s fitting name. With a background in the wine business, Bill spent his whole career in retail. He partnered with Donna, whose background is in media and the beauty business, and the two set out to create a store equally enticing to adults and children alike.
Self-proclaimed curators, Bill and Donna attend fancy food shows and scour the Internet for local artisans, constantly in search of sweets that are special and different. To them, this includes ten-year-old balsamic vinegar or organic tea—but the bulk of their inventory is comprised of sweets in the traditional sense. The pair favors smaller candy makers over anything mass-produced, but they do carry a few larger brands like the Belgian Neuhaus. After extensive research comes sampling: nearly everything has been tasted before it hits the Imagine Candy shelves.
While most often buying local, Bill and Donna also stock products from around the world, like a box of French chocolate covered cherries, or a chocolate bar made in Switzerland with Peruvian beans. Many are fashioned in the U.S. but utilize ingredients from overseas, like a Maryland-made chocolate bar called “Shanghai” that incorporates five Chinese spices. The entire glass case by the checkout counter is filled with delicacies made exclusively with Belgian chocolate. The chocolate itself is produced in Belgium, but the items are fashioned locally according to Imagine Candy’s specifications.
Belgian chocolate covered pretzels are probably Imagine Candy’s hottest item. Often ordered for corporate events and gifts, these decadent creations are easily customizable and packaged in all different sizes. If you stop by on a Friday or Saturday, you’re bound to come across a tasting plate or two, which often feature pieces of the popular pretzels.
Another immensely popular product is the dark chocolate almond bark, which I had the great pleasure of sampling. Imagine Candy is also the only retailer in the area to carry “Cacao 7,” a diabetic-friendly, soy and gluten-free, “skinny” dark chocolate bar made with seventy percent cacao.
Bill and Donna are cognizant of widespread nut and gluten allergies, an important segment of their inventory they’re committed to expanding upon daily. Particularly pretty to look at were Rice Krispie treats (made in a nut-free facility), covered in chocolate and decorated as a strawberry, Spongebob, etc. They carry a cleverly-named Larchmont chocolatier called “Noema: None of the Eight Major Allergens.” A lot of Kosher items are also available. The aim is to allow anyone with any kind of dietary restriction to be able to come into the store and find delicious things they can actually eat.
Donna prepared a selection of treats for me to bring home, and she truly did not oversell the gummies she included. They were the juiciest and most flavorful I’ve ever had, and as much as I’ll try to resist, I know I’ll be back soon for more. To ensure the maximum freshness I experienced in my tasting, Imagine Candy buys in smaller quantities, as there is a difference in taste and texture between fresh and four-week-old candies. In packaging my goodie bag, Donna noted that it’s often adults who go nuts over their Kookaburra licorice or chocolate covered Swedish fish. The triple-dipped chocolate malt balls are another big seller I loved.
For those sending kids off to camp in just a few days, Imagine Candy also sells fun pillows, backpacks, and other paraphernalia. I’d imagine they make quite a killing in July for visiting day, too, thanks to dedicated parents meeting children’s lengthy lists of demands. There are clothes made out of candy, chocolates in the shape of tennis racquets and diamonds—plenty to satisfy any child’s sweet tooth. Those hanging around the ‘Dale this summer should sample the organic frozen Go-Go Pops, each containing as few as twenty-nine calories!
The back nook of the store showcases “Candy Arts” contest winners. A few times a year, the store reviews painted submissions from people of all ages who express what candy means to them. Imagine Candy received close to two hundred entries in their first two rounds! Winning entries are displayed on the wall, website, and social media. What a fun way to engage the community!
Bill and Donna equate shopping at Imagine Candy with selecting the right wine; they are extremely knowledgeable of the nuances among products. From the fun morning I spent inside Imagine Candy, it is abundantly clear how hard they work—and how successful they are—at discovering and obtaining the best sweets around!