The "Candy Kitchen" in Wilton claims to be the oldest, continuously-operating ice cream parlor in the world. Eighty-eight-year-old George Nopoulos is the soda jerk and he regularly samples the ice cream he makes on site.
"I’m in quality control, so I have to check it a few times every day," Nopoulos says. "Why it’s good for ya, man." George and his 76-year-old wife, Thelma, have been working at the Candy Kitchen since they were children. "We’ve had people that are engaged here over an ice cream soda or a sundae or even a cherry Coke," she says. "They can sit in the same booth, order the same thing, and be waited on by the same family."
Thelma and George have been married for 59 years — and George proposed to Thelma in one of the booths. In 1910, George’s father opened the Candy Kitchen in Wilton — which is between Iowa City and Davenport. Thelma says this is their best year ever, partly because a magazine article about the shop has driven up tourist traffic.
"It’s not something that you just put together to make it look like a store front of an ice cream parlor," Thelma says. "This is the real thing." In 1951, George’s parents bought the ice cream maker that’s still in use today at the Candy Kitchen. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a confectionary has been operating from that location since 1867.
Father Jim Vrba, the priest at St. Mary’s in Wilton, is a frequent customer. "I think for Wilton, it’s part nostaligia," Vrba says of the Candy Kitchen, "but also just part of a lot of the good people who are here. The Candy Kitchen’s kind of a symbol of that…kind of a part of the foundation that I think Wilton is living on right now." Thelma and George have no plans to retire. They open the Candy Kitchen at 7:30 a.m. every day of the week but Sunday, when they delay opening ’til noon.