There's a shop that sells chocolate, candy or ice cream in most Hudson Valley towns. And then there are those few local sweet spots that offer something truly unusual. From places that host kids' birthday parties to businesses with an interesting back story, these seven shops offer both confection collections and a pretty sweet secret in store.
Opened in 2005, an impressive train exhibit in the back of the store actually came before the sweets at TreatStation (21 South Division St., Peekskill; 914-788-4141; www.treatstation.com). Often frequented by Lionel-loving candy customers, the interactive display includes several trains swerving through tunnels, up hills and 'round and 'round to the delight of the customers. After showing off the trains as a local volunteer, owner Tim Trewhella added the treats to turn a profit, and wow, did he add a lot (chocolates, retro candy and even a soda fountain for egg creams and ice cream sodas).
Good to know: Some of the model buildings on the train display date back to the 1920s; the front counter was found in a '50s soda fountain shop.
Gypsy Donut is a true community project, with support -- both financial and otherwise -- coming directly from Nyack locals (18 N. Franklin St., Nyack; 845-353-5300; gypsydonut.com). Prior to opening, co-owner David Schloss said they looked to Kickstarter, an online funding platform, to raise money. Contributions from about 180 people, who were awarded perks like free doughnuts and coffee for their support, came in at $16,000, well above the goal. Since they opened in late May, the store has been packed with customers looking for artisanal sweets -- cookies, ice cream sandwiches, brioche and biscotti, plus, of course, doughnuts, in flavors ranging from maple bacon, a top seller, to S'mores, a donut stuffed with homemade marshmallow fluff and topped with chocolate and graham crackers. Asked how business has been since opening, Schloss was unequivocally positive. "People rarely frown after eating a doughnut," he said.
Good to know: Gypsy Donuts recently started offering free classes and events. "Brew Methods," an interactive class about how to make coffee, is scheduled for Aug. 15, and this Friday, the shop will host its first karaoke night at 7 p.m. Even if you don't sing, you might consider attending just to get a bite of a "donut dog," a Hebrew National hot dog fried in doughnut batter, which the store will serve at special events.
Known for its colorful cupcakes, Flour & Sun Bakery lets you walk out with a ready-made treat or, with advance notice, put the finishing touches on a batch of your own with your friends (19 Washington Ave., Pleasantville; 914-495-3232; www.flourandsunbakery.com). Through parties and classes, scheduled upon customer request, Flour & Sun's baking pros teach small groups how to decorate with fondant, piping bags, royal icing and sprinkles.
Good to know: Flour & Sun makes a point to use local ingredients, including wine from Prospero Winery in Pleasantville, beer from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Elmsford, and berries, apples and produce from the Pleasantville Farmers Market.
Gourmetibles in Beacon
Another party-perfect spot is Gourmetibles, a candy and gift store in Beacon (494 Main St., Beacon; 845-765-1165; www.gourmetible.com). The two-hour interactive kids' birthday bashes, $225 for 10 kids, include invitations, candy-making supplies, goody boxes and more.
Good to know: In addition to stocking a wide variety of nostalgic classics like Turkish Taffy and stick candy, the two-year-old store also sells its signature treats, Gourmetibles, a candy-cookie combo available in eight flavors.
Peace, Love & Cupcakes in Woodstock
Janice Kollar opened Peace, Love and Cupcakes in June after participating as a vendor in this year's Gardiner Cupcake Festival in Ulster County (54 F Tinker St., Woodstock; 845-247-3687; www.woodstockcupcakes.com). And those who aren't familiar with Kollar should know that she's got some serious cred in the dessert world. The Food Network's "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" selected her chocolate cake recipe as the best in the country in 2008, and she's the co-author of "The Butch Bakery Cookbook," whose bold recipes call for everything from chili powder to whiskey.
Good to know: In addition to her shop's signature tie-dye vanilla cupcakes, many of her frosted creations are named after music legends, including the Dylan (carrot cake with cream cheese frosting); the Richie Havens (devil's food cake with a fudgy chocolate frosting); the Santana (lemon cake with buttercream); and the Jimi Hendrix (triple-shot espresso cake with a mocha buttercream).
Maarten and Frances Steenman are the husband-and-wife team behind La Tulipe Desserts, a tiny patisserie known not only for its state-of-the-art kitchen, mostly organic ingredients, nuanced desserts and artful culinary technique, but also its clientele -- the shop famously provided the wedding cake for Chelsea Clinton (455 Lexington Ave., Mount Kisco; 914-242-4555; www.latulipedesserts.com).
Good to know: If you're looking for something a bit less extravagant than a wedding cake fit for a president's daughter (but still worth every penny), indulge in the Chocolate Extreme, whose dark-chocolate sponge cake, dark-chocolate mousse and dark-chocolate ganache is shaped into a dome and topped with gold leaf, and surrounded by crispy-chewy chocolate macarons.
Carousel Cakes in Nanuet
A family-owned wholesale bakery that has been operating for more than 30 years, Carousel Cakes has some very famous fans (5 Seeger Dr., Nanuet; 845-627-2323; www.carouselcakes.com). The shop's red velvet cake received an endorsement from America's biggest tastemaker when it was featured in "O, The Oprah Magazine." And just this year, Carousel shipped the famed red velvet to the New York Giants when they were in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl.
Good to know: While the bakery specializes in selling cakes to top restaurants and gourmet markets across the country, it's also open to the public six days a week. Besides cakes, Carousel offers gourmet cupcakes, cake pops and mini-cupcakes.