The Sweet Life: Giambri’s Knows the Taste of Success

Giambri’s makes candy the old-fashioned way. Just don’t ask how.

How Sweet It Is: Owner David Giambri Sr., second from right, with family members, from left, son Dave; daughter Sammi; David’s brother Anthony; wife Patty, and mother Josephine (seated). A portrait of David’s deceased father, Anthony, overlooks production from a shelf in the kitchen.
Photo by Jeff Wojtaszek

What’s the secret behind the handmade candy canes sold at Giambri’s Quality Sweets? No secret, you just “gotta be a Giambri,” says David Giambri Jr., assistant production manager at the family-owned-and-operated Clementon candy shop.

In fact, only three people—all Giambri family members—know every step to making their sweet treats, the heart of the family business since 1942.

Founded in South Philadelphia by Italian immigrant James Giambri, the business has survived and thrived, says current owner David Sr., because “candy is recession proof.”

When he retired at age 74, James Giambri handed down the business to his nephew, Anthony Giambri, who moved it to its current New Jersey location in 1972. A fire destroyed the business in 1979, but Anthony rebuilt. Tragedy struck again in 1980, when James and Anthony died within three days of each other. Anthony’s five sons banded together to keep the factory humming while their mother, Josephine, ran the storefront.

There was one snag. “Old candy makers are funny,” says David Sr. “They really don’t like giving up their recipes.” James Giambri had taken a number of important candy recipes to his grave.

After reaching out to the local candy community, which David Sr. says is like “one big family,” they were able to reproduce the candies with the same quality and taste that James had established.

David Sr. took sole ownership of the business in 2006. Around the holidays, up to 11 members of the Giambri clan can be seen working in the factory and retail store—spinning candy canes, decorating chocolate-covered pretzels and shipping out sweets.

The chocolate-covered pretzels are today’s biggest sellers. Each year, Giambri’s goes through 80,000 pounds of imported Belgian chocolate and 15,000 pounds of M&Ms to produce 1 million of the twisted treats.

Handmade candy canes are still a hit. Giambri’s produces about 90,000 colorful canes each holiday season. The Giambri candy cane is thicker than most and comes in a variety of nontraditional flavors, including pomegranate, lemon and cherry.

Keeping up with the times, Giambri’s reaches out to customers via social networks for new flavor recommendations. Last year’s winner of an online poll was a “cream-cheese icing” candy cane. They also fulfill special requests, whether it’s placing the names of graduates on candy canes or shipping to troops overseas.

Giambri’s is sweet on supporting fundraisers and donating to local charities. For the past three years, the family has been involved in Hot Chocolate, a fundraiser for ALS Awareness. They also support the Arc of New Jersey, which aims to help people with disabilities learn real-world skills.

David Jr., who recently graduated from Drexel University, is next in line to take over the business. But like a kid in a candy store, he won’t be satisfied until he gets Giambri’s candy canes on the White House Christmas tree.

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