After 40 years, Wanda's Sugar Shack will probably close at the end of the year

Wanda Hornack

FILE PHOTO: Wanda Hornack, the owner of Wanda’s Sugar Shack, is pictured here at the cash register in her store. This photo was taken two years ago. Since January, Wanda has had health issues, and the store will probably close at the end of the year.

A downtown icon may be leaving at the end of the year. Relatives of Wanda Hornack, who owns Wanda’s Sugar Shack, say the “penny candy” store that’s been in Milford 40 years is likely to close its doors for good.

Wanda, 91, was noticeably missing from the store during this weekend’s Lamplight Stroll, a holiday shopping event. Instead, her daughter Carole Beers, son Michael Hornack and granddaughter Shannon Small were manning the shop.

Beers sat in the back room making chunky raisin and walnut chocolates — her mother’s recipe of course. Hornack and Small manned the register and chatted with customers, fewer this year because the shelves and shelves of candy have dwindled as Wanda’s family contemplates closing the store.

Wanda, 91, hasn’t been at the peak of health this year, her family said. She fell in January and hurt herself and just never fully recovered. Beers has been helping in the shop ever since.

“A decision has to be made,” Beers said, sadly contemplating a move that seemed inevitable since Wanda is no longer able to run the candy shop that has turned her into a bit of a celebrity in town.

“It costs $1,000 a month just to keep the shop open,” Beers said, “and she puts in money from her pension to keep it going.”

The family members on hand this weekend said they don’t expect to reorder the penny candy and other distributor-bought items that fill the clear jars that line the wall. When it runs out, it runs out, and that will likely be it.

Wanda’s Sugar Shack is known to Milford residents old and young. The older generation can remember stopping in and buying bags of Swedish fish and Bazooka gum 30 or 40 years ago; the newest generation may have done the same, and added what became some of Wanda’s signature homemade chocolates to their bags before walking to the cash register.

Small said that when she was a child, her friends were always a tad jealous that her grandmother was a candy maker.

She remembered going into the store when she was little, and while her parents didn’t let her eat lots of candy, Grandma Wanda would always say, “Here, take some Swedish fish.”

When Small went to Florida for college, she would regularly get packages from her grandmother that included five pounds of homemade fudge and those sweet, red and gummy fish candies.

“We were in California once,” Small said, “and we were all out and all of a sudden we hear someone yell, ‘Wanda!’ People recognized her. She was definitely a celebrity.”

Wanda’s grandson Mark Beers Jr. is serving in Iraq, and over the years of getting lots of candy shipments from home, the young man’s unit posted a “Sugar Shack” sign on one of the tents, Carole Beers said.

Wanda opened her candy shop on New Haven Avenue 40 years ago after working in sales at a department store downtown. “It was her dream to open a business,” Beers said, noting that her father was a police officer and he helped her get started when she decided on the candy shop.

She later moved her shop downtown, where she has occupied several locations. Her candy shop has not been spared trials and tribulations. She closed once due to a flood and twice due to fires that wrecked her store. In the midst, there was a fire at her house that did considerable damage. Yet, she kept coming back and making candy.

At first she sold penny candy that she had purchased from a distributor. But as time went on, she began making her own, and eventually her peanut butter cups and fudge nearly became famous in their own right and complemented the distributor-bought penny candies she sold.

Wanda’s family isn’t happy about closing up shop. But there’s no one in the family who can take it over, so it seems the only practical move, they said. It will stay open Saturdays only through the end of the year, and then it will likely close for good.


Editor’s Note: See our facebook invite and say farewell to Wanda’s this Saturday, Dec. 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 P.M.

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  • Sue Cascella

    Wanda, my children (who are adults now) and I wish you well. It’s about time you worried about yourself. You gave your life to everyone in Milford. You are and icon and a celebrity. Thank you for all your years of making every child and adult (including my husband who was a candy junkie) life so much sweeter. You are Milfords’ Willie Wonka. Take care of yourself and God Bless you.

    Thank you,
    Sue Cascella

  • Carolyn Dennis

    Yes, thank you Wanda! You are part of the joy of growing up in Milford!

  • Ken Klein

    So sad! I grew up across the street from her first location. One of the best things in my childhood. We still reminisce about it, as I am sure we will continue to do so. We love you!

  • Hilary

    We will miss you so much! Thank you for all of those awesome years. You were the biggest reward any kid could get for good grades or any other achievement. “Surprise! I’m taking you to WANDA’S!!!” I will really miss that. Take care of yourself, and thank you.

  • We LOVE Wanda! I had the pleasure of interviewing her last year when I was in town visiting family and she was so funny and full of spirit (a real pip, as my grandma would have said). We are so sad to hear the store will close but wishing Wanda the best and sending lots of love. I still want a recipe for our next cookbook, Wanda!!

  • eliza holcomb

    Thank you Wanda! Milford will never be the same. My son won a writing contest for the time capsule placed at the Milford Chamber of Commerce- imagining what Milford may be like in sixty years. His vision was a statue of Wanda’s sugar shack on the green. You deserve it!

  • Pat Fabian

    I remember when my kids were young we would stop and buy penny candy before they went to the movies. I also loved to fill up the Christmas stockings with candy. And over the last ten years or so I’ve been trying my hand at candy making. Wanda always had good advice about melting the chocolate for the molds. Thank you too for the recipes for the peanut butter balls, the oreo balls and the coconut filled confections. I will really miss you. Hope your health improves. My prayers are with you.

  • Cheryl Connolly

    Don’t close!!!! One of my favorite memories growing up was with my Mima going to Wanda’s after the Duck Pond. She’d give us a plastic bag of pennies to spend at your store. It was an amazing time!

  • allison

    If not a statue, there should ABSOLUTELY be a tribute to Wanda for all of her years of dedication to making the city of Milford a happier place. Wanda Sugar Shack was the place my mom would take me afer a great game, good grades, visit to the doctor, or a quick stop in after a dance class at Lee Lund. Nothing but happy memories and positive thoughts when I went to wandas.. i’m gonna miss the shack greatly, along w/ her smiling face when i walked in the door.

  • JB

    Breaks my heart! Loved going to Wanda’s after lunch at Archies. Gonna miss it. All my best to Wanda!

  • Claudia-Gail Kiely

    To Wanda a courageous, strong person who made everyone smile. My family and definately my 10 grandchildren will miss you and your delicious sweets. When my grandchildren visited the first thing they would say is , “can we go to Wanda’s.” The Sugar Shack was a great way for grandparent’s to spoil their grandchildren. I will personally miss you Wanda and especially the best times we had on River Street. Be happy and enjoy your time with your family.

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