You probably reached my blog about Ozarks natural history because you were looking for the hours of operation for Redmon's Candy Factory, the big candy store on I-44 outside of Lebanon. I've noticed that hundreds of people each month end up at my blog, and suffer through a post I wrote about feral hogs and how destructive they are. I never offer many of them any of the information they want. All I give in this post is a personal experience from visiting the store. Considering that Redmon's doesn't have a website, and their phone number is listed incorrectly in at least one online source, here's the information you're looking for:
Open daily from 7:30 am-9pm
It was a warm November afternoon when my colleague and I set out from Oklahoma's Wichita Mountains. Donned in the same grubby clothes we had worn for the past three days, we made our way back to Missouri, stopping only for coffee and petrol. Winds near our campsite were vicious that morning, so we hiked out of the wildlife refuge without coffee, without oatmeal, never lighting a match on the campstove for fear of starting a massive wildfire. Buffalo Grounds, the small, charming, independent coffeeshop near the refuge was closed for bible study, operated as it is by a contingent of evangelical Christians. We found coffee after 20 miles on rural Oklahoma roads and continued east on I-44, refueling on big cups of decaf and bottled water to suppress hunger. For the past few days, we had eaten nothing but lentils, quinoa, fruit, oatmeal, cheese, and almonds and we simply weren't presentable enough to sit down to a meal anywhere in the Ozarks.
It was just outside of Joplin when my colleague announced that we would break our pace, that we were going to stop for a while outside of Lebanon. On our way westward a few days before, he affected a halted and hushed tone, one that traditionally connotes the discussion of a serious or audacious topic: "Can you believe the governor of Illinois?" or a line I always say, "Have you ever had the butternut squash risotto at Higgins?" He took a deep breath and said, slowly, "have you ever stopped at the candy store outside of Lebanon?"
I had seen the billboards literally hundreds of times: a cartoon boy in a red shirt, red baseball cap, holding his hands in the air with a manic smile as though screaming the words on the billboard. World's Largest Candy Store! Drive west a few more miles, and the boy is happy about the World's Largest Gift Store! Despite the claim that the largest candy store is outside of Lebanon and I, frankly, love candy I truthfully and casually told my colleague that no, I never even thought of stopping there. Not even for their homemade fudge.
"Oh, we have to stop there. You won't believe it." A seasoned veteran of Missouri roads, he had only pulled into Redmon's earlier this year at the request of another colleague, a Baton Rouge native who loves good food and treats as much as I do. "The entire store is nothing but candy. Aisles of candy!" He went on to explain that it wasn't just any candy, but every candy. Big bins of penny candy fill the store: Mary Janes, Walnetto, those brightly colored foil wrapped flavored toffees, little Italian anise candy, IBC rootbeer candy, etc. On the right side of the store is the fudge factory where they make about 15 different kinds of fudge. Peanut brittle, cashew brittle, long strands of licorice, chocolate covered nuts of every variety. He was right. We had to stop.
The bright fluorescent lights provided a brilliant contrast to the cloudy fall day. Screaming colored cellophane candy wrappers of pink, orange, blue, green and red turned an industrial warehouse into a place so joyful that I laughed as I grabbed a white paper bag from the end of the aisle. Candy by the fistful! I took handfuls of every candy in the bulk bin aisles (except starlight mints. How boring.). I grabbed a pecan log, a nougat filled roll covered in chopped pecans that I used to buy when we'd stop at Stuckey's when I was a child. All of the Atkinson Candy Co. candy was represented: peanut planks (my all-time favorite candy, wrapped in paper that looks like wood grain), Chick-O-Stick, those Neapolitan coconut bars. I picked up peanut brittle for my stepfather, licorice for Doug. I ignored the fudge, since no one can make fudge like my mother can. When I finally set my bulging bag on the scales, it weighed almost 15 pounds. 15 pounds of sugar.
"Wasn't that great!?" my colleague exclaimed as we hopped back in the car. We debated about what to eat first. We broke into the pecan log and began to exchange childhood stories, rather competing with one another about who used to eat the most candy. Actually, despite how much I loved sugar as a kid, I think he won. I spent allowance on stuffed animals and ice cream, but he spent his solely on penny candy, Zero bars, Heath bars, chocolate bars. Together, my esteemed colleague and I littered the floorboard of the car with candy wrappers that afternoon.
I knew I wouldn't be able to run for a while after the first day of the backpacking trip when I injured myself. So, really, my candy purchase resembled my monthly pastry purchase. I pick out pretty pastries for my colleagues (nice strudels, things with pink icing, eclairs), but I won't eat them. Oh, I'm sure they're great, but I'm careful about what I eat. So I didn't actually plan on eating all the 15 pounds of candy, I just wanted to pick it out and think about eating it. I wanted to look at it, to run my hands through it.
I rolled up the bag from Redmon's as we pulled into Osage Beach following my colleague's hesitant "okay, that's enough." That night, back in Columbia, I made a generous donation to Doug, another lover of sugar, who looked just like the happy boy on the billboard when I dropped 14 pounds of candy on his desk.