IN A NINETEENTH-CENTURY STOREFRONT nestled between a piano store and a Chinese restaurant in Newburgh, one family has been practicing the fine art of confection for almost 40 years. Through the city’s many ups and downs and transitions, Commodore Chocolatier has continued to thrive following the principle that nothing pleases people quite like candy.
Drawing a steady business year-round, Commodore’s busiest holidays are, of course, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter. Yet November and December are perhaps the community’s most eagerly anticipated months of year, when the candy store opens its adjacent kitchen to share the magic of hand-pulled candy canes.
The Courtsunis family has entertained hundreds, sometimes thousands of people with this centuries-old craft. “In a small amount of time, you see a total transformation of a 300˚ molten mass of ingredients into a finished product,” says owner John Courtsunis.
Indeed, for the Courtsunis family, life has always been sweet. George Courtsunis, John’s father, founded Commodore Chocolatier. A classically trained confectioner, he opened his kitchen to those curious enough to ask about the candy-making process, first to school kids and later to the general public. “The phones started ringing, word spread, and we started granting requests for private parties,” John says. “Soon, a lot of neighborhood housewives and groups like the Brownies wanted to host events.” While the public candy-making demonstrations were held on Thanksgiving weekend (it’s become somewhat of a city-wide holiday tradition), the hand-made sweets are always available at the shop. Aside from the chocolates, caramels, nougats and (in season) their famous chocolate-covered strawberries, the holiday season brings out the endlessly popular candy canes and ribbon candy.
And it looks like the landmark storefront will continue its traditions for many holidays to come. Gus Courtsunis, John’s son, has been helping his dad at the shop for years. He graduated from college in May, but turned down a job in favor of continuing in the family business with “an eye toward the future.”