By Tegan Kraklio
Lynn and Brenda Ochiltree are the current owners and operators of the Candy Kitchen in Wilton, an iconic ice cream parlor, soda fountain and confectionary shop known around the world.
It was the first building constructed in Wilton, in 1856, and was purchased by Gus Nopoulos in 1910. In 1993 it was listed under the National Register of Historical Places. It remained in operation under the Nopoulos family until 2015.
Gus’ son George and his wife Thelma are best known as the people who made it what it is today. Many local families know and enjoy their family’s legacy, but might not know very much about the Ochiltree’s or their vision for the Candy Kitchen and the living history museum it is now.
Lynn Ochiltree has long held an interest in the past. He began collecting antiques at 8 years old, then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history at Simpson College. From there, he built a career as a funeral director.
Brenda, speaking of her husband, explained it this way: “History you save, you preserve. You gather information to see about someone’s life, and it’s the same thing as a funeral director for their obituary, to write it. You have to gather the information of who they are and what they did in their life, their history.”
What led the Ochiltrees to acquire the Candy Kitchen, though?
“[Thelma] approached Brenda and I, together and individually, and said that it would be nice if we would come back and… run the Candy Kitchen,” Lynn said, but at that time it wasn’t feasible for the couple.
After George Nopoulos passed away in 2015, there was talk of giving the Candy Kitchen to the city, to the historical society, or selling its contents to interested buyers. It was even discussed that it might simply be torn down, because the building was badly in need of repairs.
“At that point,” Lynn said, “Brenda’s the one that stepped up and said, ‘Thelma, we can’t let that happen.’”
Thelma agreed, and asked them to write their letter of intent, which she signed the next day. “It would have been a travesty for this to have not continued. God bless Thelma for her vision to allow us to buy it.”
Brenda said she felt they were handpicked in that way, but they both knew that their purchase was somewhat conditional.
“[Thelma] knew that we would take the legacy and respect it and not change it to be what we wanted it to be,” Lynn said, “but to be something similar as what was done for the last hundred years, and that was important to her.”
They have maintained their promise, changing little outside of the building repairs, and adding a handicap accessible restroom. As lovers of history, however, they do have hopes of expanding the museum portion of the business.
“The museum… has become an even bigger part of what we have because of how important this heritage is,” Lynn said. “And we want to be able to maybe at some point build a welcome center next to the Candy Kitchen which can house the archives and be a highlight for some Wilton history for travelers.”
The couple also own LorLen Candles, Gifts and Antiques. They say their favorite part about having their businesses and preserving Wilton history is in bringing happiness to people.
“I feel like all of our businesses bring people joy and happiness,” said Brenda. She expressed a wish for people to be happy in life and enjoy it. “If something we own can bring you joy, I love that.”
The Ochiltree’s biggest challenge as business owners and caretakers of local history is in balancing it with home life. Brenda’s heart as a mother came through as she commented that her greatest priority is their 10-year-old son Christian’s happiness. They are seeking to leave a legacy behind for him, while honoring those who came before them. “It’s to honor the Nopoulos family.”
“We never took this over to be George and Thelma,” Lynn agreed. “We took this over to continue the legacy of that family. I think we’ve taken full ownership of it in a very subtle way… but our personalities will help to grow and maintain this business. We’re just humbled to be able to continue it.”
The Candy Kitchen is located at 310 Cedar St. in Wilton, and is open daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. It will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. when Daylight Saving Time ends Nov. 3.