A Sweet Tradition

For many Baltimoreans, Easter just wouldn't be the same without their creamy Mary Sue eggs.

April 04, 2001|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,SUN STAFF

If you were raised in Baltimore, chances are that this time of the year there's a familiar jingle dancing through your head.

"Here's a treat that is sunny for your Easter bunny, the creamiest candy that's made. Mary Sue Easter eggs, Mary Sue Easter eggs, brighten your Easter parade."

Sung to the tune of "My Little Buttercup" from the Gilbert and Sullivan musical "H. M. S. Pinafore," the jingle can be heard each spring on radio and television, reminding you that the time has come to shop for Mary Sue Easter eggs.

But as a true Baltimorean, you hardly need a reminder. Buying Mary Sue Easter candy is an annual tradition -- like the Orioles, steamed crabs with Natty Boh and "goin' downy ocean."

Just ask Mary Finecey of White Marsh. She already has her supply of Mary Sue Easter eggs safely stored in her kitchen cupboard. Finecey says she starts looking for the creamy eggs as soon as store shelves are cleared of Valentine's Day candy.

"My favorite are the chocolate butter cream eggs, and if you don't buy them early, they are gone," she says.

The 43-year old parochial school teacher says it would be a sad Easter without those chocolate cream eggs. As long as she can remember, they've been part of her Easter basket. Her mother, Stepheney Alimondo, bought them for her when she was a child. Then Finecey bought Mary Sue candy for her children, and today she buys them for everyone in the family -- chocolate cream for herself, her mom and daughter, vanilla cream for her husband, peanut butter for her brother, pecan nougat for her uncle ...

The pecan nougat eggs are Adele Day's favorite, too, although as a child she liked the coconut creme filling best. She's also fond of peanut butter creme and fruit and nut eggs.

Day grew up in the Baltimore area, and Mary Sue Easter eggs were a candy tradition in her family. "My aunt, my grandmother -- we all loved them," she remembers.

Day, her husband, Richard, and other members of the family now live in Southern Florida, where stores don't carry Mary Sue candies. But they make sure that they have their Mary Sue eggs on Easter.

Last year, Adele Day flew to Baltimore in the spring and returned with her hand luggage filled with Mary Sue Easter eggs. "I guarded them like a treasure," she says.

This year, she ordered the candy by phone -- $319 worth. And that's a lot of eggs, considering they range in price from 50 cents for a small egg to $4.95 for a 1-pound egg.

"We have those Easter eggs, Mary Sue Easter eggs."

Just as buying Mary Sue Easter eggs is a family tradition that transcends generations, so is creating them.

The first batch of Mary Sue Easter eggs was made in 1946 by Samuel "Sacha" Spector. The Spectors were famous candy makers in Russia and came to America around 1910 with a certificate from the czar attesting to the family's ability of making award-winning marmalade and candy.

Sacha was looking to move away from his father's hard-candy business and create his own niche when he came up with the recipe for chocolate-covered cream eggs. He named his new company Mary Sue, after the daughters of a close friend.

By the early 1950s, Sacha Spector's Easter eggs were becoming so popular that he moved production from a group of three West Baltimore rowhouses where the family had operated the candy business to a newly built factory on Caton Avenue. From there, his 35-year-old grandson Mark Berman continues the family tradition today, making Mary Sue Easter eggs just as Sacha had taught him.

"We use the same recipe and the same natural ingredients," says Berman. There's only one difference. The company has grown from making seasonal Easter eggs to producing candy year-round.

Almost five years ago, Mary Sue Candies and the Naron Candy Co. merged. "We were the same business serving two different markets," says Berman. "We combined forces and now use one production facility."

Berman and Naron's former owner, Murph Scherr, are equal partners. In addition to Mary Sue Easter eggs, the company produces Naron gourmet chocolates and saltwater taffy. And, there are plans for boxed Mary Sue candy to come out in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But January through March each year, most of the production is devoted to Easter eggs. While some candy factories start making Easter eggs in the fall, Mary Sue doesn't begin handcrafting the home-style eggs until after Christmas to keep from having to add preservatives to its product.

The company works almost around the clock, so that thousands of batches of eggs are mixed, then hand-shaped and packed for send-off to stores in the mid-Atlantic region.

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