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Mapping the (Mostly) Sweet Scents of America’s Candy Factories

Sniff or treat!

In the middle of Main Street Cambridge’s Central Square, squished between a UHaul and a pan-Asian restaurant, sits an anonymous, foreboding building. Its walls are graying and dingy, and its windows are covered from the inside. No signs identify its purpose. It doesn’t seem like a great neighbor.

But several times a week, as the sun sets over the city, the building begins releasing a sweet, chocolatey-mint scent. As it turns out, it’s home to a branch of the Tootsie Roll Company—specifically, the one that churns out Junior Mints.

The Tootsie Roll Factory is the last bastion of what was once a burgeoning Cambridge candy scene. With the rise of huge candy conglomerates like Hershey’s and Nestle in the mid-20th century, neighborhood confectionaries became more and more rare. More recently, sugar prices have driven many factories overseas—we lost the Jolly Rancher plant, which “almost always smelled like grape,” to Mexico in 2009.

But there’s still plenty of opportunity for good stateside sniffing. Pennsylvania churns out everything from Kit Kats to Peeps. The Blommer Chocolate Company has cast a perpetual cocoa cloud over the east side of Chicago. And if you’re out West, there’s California’s Jelly Belly Factory, which offers up as many different smells as it does beans.

Enjoy this nosewitness view of the country—and if you live near an aromatic candy factory, let us know, and we’ll add it to the map.