A small weathered building sits along Montauk Highway on the main drag in Water Mill. Its red door faded, paint peeling, a "For Sale" sign in the window. In faded black letters above the door the curling letters read "Penny Candy Shop". Sweet toothed shoppers no longer cross the threshold. The laughter of children and their parents a distant memory.
I stopped to take a closer look.
Inside, the shop is frozen in time.
An eerie quiet prevails.
Dust motes float in scant rays of sun slanting through the window.
Toys fading on the shelves.
Candy jars empty.
In the marvelous memoir, The Kingdom of the Kid: Growing up in the the Long-Lost Hamptons, Geoff Gehman devotes a chapter to the Penny Candy Shop and its founders June and Harvey Morris.
Excerpt from The Kingdom of the Kid by Geoff Gehman
June and Harvey became shopkeepers by accidental design. -- At the suggestion of his mother, they decided to open a store for crayons, coloring books and other basics for kids like Harvey Morris III, then seven years old. They decided to sell sweets because June had fond childhood memories of visiting a penny-candy store in Patchogue.
Harvey and June Morris, the shop's owners, had the gift of making kids feel like adults and adults like kids. They were gently funny, easily amused and eternally patient, traits that somehow slowed the wicked sugar rush of too may Hersey kisses or chunks of vanilla fudge. They were natural psychologists, sneaky sociologists, not-so-sneaky etiquette teachers, emergency chauffeurs, surrogate parents, capital-C citizens, dream weavers. Their store was the East End's most consistently miraculous place, where every day was Christmas, Easter, Halloween and your birthday.
The Morrises opened for business on September 11, 1961 -- For 30 years it was open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week for most of the year. They sold newspapers to potato farmers who needed to know the prices of their stock before 9 a.m. They sold candy bars to emergency workers during hurricanes. They could afford to stay open when most storekeepers stayed home because for 30 years they lived behind the shop.
The Penny Candy Shop in Water Mill was the spot for sweets and acts of sweet citizenship. - Geoff Gehman
The shop and home is for sale by owner here.
A time capsule of the long-lost Hamptons could be yours.
Geoff Gehman's book is available for immediate gratification here.