Goldenrod Kisses | Up Close

How a handful of Goldenrod Kisses evoke the sweetest memories of a beach day in Maine.

By Joe Bills

May 02 2022


Goldenrod Kisses

Photo Credit : Adam Detour; Styling by Catrine Kelty
Goldenrod Kisses
Photo Credit : Adam Detour; Styling by Catrine Kelty

The longest-running show in the village of York Beach, Maine, still draws a crowd more than 125 years later. No surprise, since admission is free and the aroma-based marketing campaign is essentially irresistible.

Each May, the wafting sweet smell of boiling sugar and molasses returns to the streets here, indicating the production of Goldenrod Kisses, a brand of saltwater taffy that—around here, at least—is as indispensable an ingredient of summer as the sun itself.

It was in 1896, just one year before a new railway connection would raise the area’s profile as a tourist destination, that Edward and Mattie Talpey opened their York Beach eatery, the Goldenrod, across the road from Short Sands Beach. Now the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Maine, the Goldenrod found popularity with its full-service soda fountain and tasty menu, yet it soon became clear that the real star was its taffy. And not just the candy itself, but also the performance that Edward would give in the front window: hanging the taffy from hooks, pulling it by hand, and cutting it into those signature Kisses.

Today, the original recipes are still followed for the 12 primary flavors: chocolate, cinnamon, licorice, lime, maple-walnut, molasses, molasses-peppermint, peanut butter, peppermint, strawberry, vanilla, and wintergreen. During the summer, special flavors are rotated in as well.

Goldenrod Kisses are made fresh daily, as they were in Edward’s time—although in quantities he never could have imagined. Viewers now line up outside not just the front window, but also windows along the side of the building, where they follow the whole Willy Wonka process from cooking kettles to cooling tables to a pulling machine (which took over Edward’s lead role in the 1940s). The pulling fluffs the taffy, doubling its size and readying it for the 1958 cutting and wrapping machine, which chops off 180 morsels a minute, eight million a season. And the show goes on.