Costa’s Candies & Restaurant a fixture in Owatonna for a century
Costa’s Candies and Restaurant has been a fixture on Cedar Avenue in Owatonna since 1919 when George Boosalis opened it as George’s Candy Kitchen.
Boosalis ran the business until 1970 when his nephew, Costa Boosalis, bought the business and changed the name to Costa’s Candies and Restaurant.
Costa Boosalis and his wife, Mary, operated the restaurant until they retired and it was operated for a short time by their son, Ted, until Grant and Julie Schultz bought it in 2009.
This place is more of an institution and icon in Owatonna, Grant Schultz said. In the 10 years they have owned it, he said, they have added a few food items to the menu and a few candies but they have made changes slowly.
They have continued to be a local, small town diner, Julie Schultz said. People keep coming back, she added.
Costa Boosalis remodeled the restaurant when he purchased it, she said, and it has had much the same look since then.
The candies are made using the same recipes and methods and some of the candy making equipment is also original going back to the days when George Boosalis opened his candy kitchen. The beater for the cremes, for example, is the same one used in 1920. They also think that the copper pot use to make the candies is original as is the table made of Mankato limestone.
The Schultz’s have added some new flavors, Julie said, including truffles, peanut butter and sea salt caramels. The truffles have proved to be a Valentine’s Day favorite she said, while the regular wrapped caramels continue be popular.
Everyone has their favorites, the Schultzs said. The cremes, she said, have become somewhat less popular although still liked by older patrons.
It is hard to add new candies, she said, because if any old favorites are eliminated, it will always upset some patrons. Since all the candies cannot be available all the time, she said, some of the selections have become more seasonal.
The chocolate Easter bunnies have also remained favorites. Although they now use new molds to make the bunnies, she said, they still use a large, original metal mold to make a couple bigger-than-normal bunnies each season.
She added that many times if a patron finds an old favorite is not available and they try a new one, they end up coming back and saying they have a new favorite.
The making of a lot of the candies is actually a three-day process, Schultz said. It takes six hours to make the inside of the butter crème which then has to set before it can be dipped in chocolate and wrapped.
Grant makes the caramels and the insides of the cremes. They have a full-time, year-round chocolate dipper, Julie said.
They generally employ about a dozen people between the restaurant and the candies but that number can double during holiday seasons.
When the Schultzs bought the store, Julie said, they had no experience running a restaurant or making candy. She had been a teacher but was a stay-at-home-mom at that time. Grant was the third generation working in his family construction business.
“The opportunity presented itself and we went with it,” Julie said.
Both of the Schultz’s liked to bake and cook and Julie had made candy with her mother.
They took over the business on Oct. 1, meaning the busy Christmas season was near. Costa helped out for the first four to six weeks, she said, and then they were on their own.
Candy is more seasonal than the restaurant business, they said, with not as much sold during the summer.
“We saw an uptick about a month ago,” Julie said.
Costa’s candies have become known far and wide and have been shipped to all 50 states and 32 countries. Most of the candies going overseas, Grant said, have been purchased in Owatonna by people taking it out of the country.
However, he said, on one occasion they shipped a package to a service member in Afghanistan through the regular APO system. The woman who received the shipment during her deployment came into the restaurant after she returned home and said that the candy, when it finally arrived, was all melted together. It still tasted delicious, she told them, and it was worth it.
The couple has been celebrating the 100th anniversary all year and have been asking people to write down their memories in a book at the front counter. They are now on their second book of memories, Julie said.
“The memories have been a lot of fun to hear,” she said.
Their family, they said, has grown to four children, ages 12, 10, 8 and 5, Julie said, and when the children come into the restaurant they can find a job for each one. Julie said her parents also come in on Sundays to help wrap the caramels.
The anniversary celebration will continue until the end of the year.