Imagine a job where none of your customers are ever in a bad mood. A profession where chocolate, candy and ice cream greet you each morning and sugar crusted treats bid you goodnight – you may start looking around for Oompa Loompas. Yes, our dream gig is currently filled by Ava Barbin-King, proprietor and wife of the third generation candy-making King family.
If you have ever toured the Strand in Galveston you have walked into La King’s Confectionary, which features a working 1920’s soda fountain serving malts, shakes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, splits, floats and your favorite fountain treats all made in-house with “Purity” ice creams, Texas’ first ice cream manufacturer, founded in 1889 on Galveston Island.
La King’s Confectionary also sells unique candies, over fifty made in-house by a master candy maker who delights the crowds with old-time specialities like salt water taffy, peanut and Peco Brittle, Divinity, pecan pralines, hand-dipped chocolates, and fudge made in front of customers on antique equipment.
Ava Barb-King runs the place, purchasing all the candy not made in house, keeping inventory of thousands of pieces and somehow making sure a three story, 100+-year-old building remains meticulously organized and pristine.
“Everybody is always happy, the only people who are crying are the kids who only got one piece of candy instead of two,” she says. “June, July and August are our busiest months as you can imagine. If I don’t keep our purchasing and inventory straight before then, nothing will get done in the summer. We get hundreds of customers a day. In our busiest months my family and I just live in the loft on the top floor of the building with our resident ghost Charles. He is a cool guy who only occasionally moves inventory around.”
Keeping up with the crowds that flock to La King’s is a huge task. The number of workers, taffy-pulling demonstrations, soda fountain, ice cream production and candy inventories is a job that never ends. But Ava says it is a labor of love, begun in 1927.
“My husband’s grandfather, Jimmy King began making candy in Houston while learning the trade from ‘Old World’ candy makers. In 1976, Jimmy’s oldest son, Jack, moved his family to the Strand to recreate an old-fashioned confectionery. He used the 19th-century formulas and methods, handed down to him, using traditional equipment and procedures,” Ava explains. “I love being part of something with such an amazing history; even though I will admit, I almost never over-indulge because a person does eventually get sick of eating candy.”
Ava’s dream is to one day open an event space either on the top floor of the current building or next door to indulge an adult and child’s sweet tooth for larger functions. If you are ever in Galveston, stop by the Strand and pay a visit to La King’s! Tell Ava we sent you!