Story and Photos By Andrea Lee
Amongst the shops and old brick buildings that make up Old Galveston Square sits a special little place offering a sweet treat for everyone, young and old. Nestled in a wall of shops is a warm and wonderful little place that has been a constant to many people over many years. If you’ve got a sweet tooth (or ALL sweet teeth), you are sure to find happiness at La King’s Candy Shop.
On this side of the island opposite the seawall, visitors can watch as huge cruise ships embark on their trips, traveling miles away to vacation spots and dreamy destinations. There are countless options to dine and shop for blocks and blocks of what is commonly known as “The Strand.” The streets are lined with eateries, gift shops, surf shops, stores, and often are abuzz with crowds—roughly half island natives, half tourists. Occasionally, Mardi Gras decor can be seen in a shop or on the street, a colorful beacon of green, purple, and gold, representing the fun and celebratory theme of the island. Packed with history, The Strand is home to many-a-nook in the wall that has seen its fair share of hurricanes and tourists. This unique, beachy shopping spot has witnessed some of the heaviest tourism and travel of many popular destinations across Texas. Home to The Strand, Pleasure Pier, Moody Gardens, and Schlitterbahn, Galveston is rich with history and entertainment. Galveston is a special place because it has so much to offer, whatever your fix may be. One can enjoy the uptown buzz of the streets, or find solace at the spot of their choosing, with beach stretching for miles and miles.
A little backstory, I believe, is imperative to getting the full effect of some experiences; therefore, here is a snippet of history that will help you understand why I speak so fondly and reminiscently of this particular shop. I grew up on the Texas Gulf coast, living in both Liverpool and Dickinson, our family business residing in Alvin. Growing up, my best friend’s grandmother lived on the island, and her father managed the Tremont Hotel on The Strand, so we frequented the island on a very regular basis. A large portion of my childhood was formed on the island. After elementary school, we would ride bikes through the cemeteries, piddle around The Strand, passing the time in this town that didn’t seem so special to us at the time. My family still lives 17 miles from the island, so I was ecstatic at the opportunity to cover a candy shop that I could write about solely with the information I acquired from my 2nd grade field trip to La King’s.
I made a day trip to Galveston from Huntsville, in order to both refresh my memory of the shop and get my red licorice fix. I picked up my younger brother on the way, and we visited The Strand on a chilly Sunday in January (Sundays are free parking, another bonus!). The sidewalks in front of the buildings are fairly crowded, a good crowd for a Sunday. Families shuffle in and out of doors, clad in their winter coats, collars and hoods up against the gusty island wind.
We enter through the blue and red front doors, greeted by a mixture of sweet scents hanging in the air and the sound of a crowd gently humming in the background. The bright colors of candy under glass catch the eye, while old-fashioned displays warm the spirits and create a reminiscent atmosphere. The boys behind the ice cream counter wear a white hat and apron, the vintage-style uniform transporting the experience to a different and simpler time. The building and most of the things in it have been there for a little over a century. La King’s also incorporates tried and true methods into making homemade candy, like their homemade peanut brittle, divinity, pecan pralines, chocolates, fudge, and salt water taffy. They make and serve “Purity” ice cream, the first ice cream manufacturer in Texas, which was also founded in Galveston in 1889.
One scoop of coffee chip ice cream induces a little caffeine boost, and my mind perks up to the vivid scene before me. The middle of the room is a hub of small white wire tables and chairs, the wooden tabletops covered in milkshake glasses, ice cream bowls, and candy bags. When one family leaves, a white-hatted boy busses the table quickly, making room for another family to sit down and enjoy their ice cream (made in-house). Jotting down notes with my right hand while eating ice cream with my left, I tell my brother (kindly) to please go count the number of ice cream flavors. May as well put him to use while he’s here, although I won’t make him count the number of different candies in the shop—that would just be mean. The count comes in, and the result is 28 ice cream flavors, all made by La King’s, and some of the most perfect ice cream there is. Flavors like pumpkin pie, espresso, rocky road, and strawberry are all true to taste and flawless in consistency and texture.
In the front left corner of the room sits an espresso machine and a sign over the counter that says “Coffee Shop.” Near it, a three-tiered sign hangs from the ceiling reading “MALTS, SHAKES, SPLITS, DRINKS, FLOATS, SODAS, AND SUNDAES.” I hope that sign is also on the gates of heaven. Behind it is a mirrored wall lined with shelves of assorted clear glasses, different shapes for different desserts and beverages. In the midst of Valentine’s Day approaching, red garland and heart decorations adorn the countertops and walls. Another sign, “Ice cream by the scoop” points to the ice cream parlor in the far left corner of the shop. Large glass displays full of countless confectioneries line the right side of the room, nearly every type of truffle or treat you can think of.
The back of the shop is home to the candy making area, where some assortments of candy sold in the shop are made in-house, most popular being their saltwater taffy. Lining the work area fence are giant wooden tubs, side by side, each barrel a different flavor of La King’s famous old-fashioned salt-water taffy. The candy making area is fenced off to employees only, with a few long tables and strange looking contraptions on the other side. A dark wooden staircase leads to a second story off limits to the public, a force that nags at one’s curiosity.
An employee cleans one of the stranger looking machines, and a sign over a long table reads “Next Taffy Pull, Monday @ 10:31 a.m.” To witness a taffy pull is a real treat in itself, to watch a huge slab of colorful dough go through a machine that sections it and packages it. The machine is ancient, but works like a charm. During a taffy pull, the shop lets customers sample the taffy after it has been freshly made, warm, and twisted into paper wrappers. La King’s is an accurate depiction of how you would imagine a giant milkshake/coffee/candy store looking in your head—just wonderful, but you must see it for yourself. The experience this shop offers alone will be worth the trip to Galveston with a friend or family member. Add La King’s Confectionery to your island itinerary, and make your trip a lot sweeter! The shop is located at 2323 Strand Street in Galveston, open at 10:00 am every day of the week.
2323 Strand Street
Galveston, TX 77550