The Good Ship Lollipop
by Alexanda Bullen Coutts
Marguerite Cook has a sweet tooth, but that’s not why she opened a candy shop. After more than 30 years of service, the former tax collector of Oak Bluffs was winding down at her post and searching for new direction.
I had a little bucket list,” she remembered, “and opening a candy shop had always been on it.” But it wasn’t until she was convinced that there was a real need in town that she decided to go for it. “I would see the taxpayers on the street they would say, You know, there’s no candy on the counter anymore, and no happy faces because there’s nothing sweet.”
And so it was that in 2005, Marguerite opened the Good Ship Lollipop, a hidden gem of a candy shop specializing in old-fashioned candy and homemade chocolates, tucked away at the bottom of Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs.
As a little girl growing up in Braintree, Mass., Marguerite and her 12 brothers and sisters would visit the neighborhood candy store, a tiny corner of a nearby gas station owned by an elderly woman, the great aunt of family friends.
“She was never very friendly,” Marguerite said, now a grandmother herself and surrounded by towering displays of sour candies, taffy, and hard-to-find candy bars. “She would say ‘Don’t you touch anything!’ And I remember thinking, I could never be mean like that if I had a candy store.”
Marguerite conceded that greeting a gaggle of 12 rowdy children couldn’t have been the easiest of tasks, but still, she’s kept her word. She and her husband David, a recently retired postal worker, are now the sweet and smiling faces that greet customers as they peruse the shop, which, in addition to the specialty candies, chocolates, and fudge, carries a lovingly curated selection of toys, gifts and memorabilia.
But the heart of the operation remains the rows and rows of homemade chocolates displayed in a case up front. “Our turtles are the most popular,” Marguerite said, pointing to a shelf of turtle-shaped chocolates, clusters of almonds or cashews dipped in solid milk or dark chocolate, some topped with a sprinkling of sea salt. With the help of Brenda Mastromonaco, whose family owned the original Hilliard’s candy shop in the same location, Marguerite spends a few days each week at a stool in the window, dipping the turtles and other chocolates by hand. “We can’t keep up with them,” she said.
Alongside the turtles, chocolate covered Oreos, and the eponymous chocolate lollipops (many of which are still made from molds hand-crafted by the original Mrs.Hilliard’s sister, Ruth) is a newer case featuring chocolates for specialty diets, including vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free selections. Though these candies are brought in by a chocolate maker in Connecticut, Marguerite is thrilled to be able to offer something sweet for all to enjoy, especially as demand for these treats has grown. She’s also seen increased interest in the brightly packaged sour candies, particularly among her youngest clientele. Despite being pushed by well-meaning parents towards the cases of homemade goodness, “they go right for the squishies, the squeezies, the sour gummies and all of those things.”
But much to the delight of her longtime customers, Marguerite continues to carry a mouth-watering assortment of old-fashioned favorites, from Mary Jane’s to Banana Splits, Turkish Taffy to Charleston Chews. “People get all excited when they come in because they haven’t seen this stuff in years,” Marguerite said.
As if on cue, a pair of middle-aged women entered the shop, cooing from one display to another, filling their baskets with long-forgotten treats. “Look at this,” one called to the other, holding up a brightly colored confection molded into the shape of an ice cream cone.
“When’s the last time you saw one of these?”
The Good Ship Lollipop is located at 61 Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs.