Velatis In The News - West End's Best
A SWEET TASTE OF HISTORY
|It was the 1850’s. Salvidore Velati and his family arrive in
Richmond, bringing with them old European recipes from their
home in Turin, Italy. Capitalizing on those recipes, the family
goes into the candy making business. And, from what little
information is available, the candy was very popular among
Richmonders of that pre-Civil War era.
early history of Velatis Candy is somewhat sketchy. But what we
do know is that by 1866, the family had moved their candy-making
business to Washington, D.C. Some say the family was forced to
move out of Richmond after Ulysses S. Grant and his troops
ravaged the city.
Whatever the reason for the move, the Velati family made and
sold the candy in their confectionary store at 9th and G Streets
in the nation’s capital, for more than a century. The
old-fashioned candy store, with wrought iron, a soda fountain
and Dresden china, became somewhat of a D.C. landmark.
In 1972, the city demolished their store to make way for
Washington’s new Metro underground rail system. The family
relocated the business into the popular D.C. downtown department
store, Woodward and Lothrops, and in the early eighties, Woody’s
(as it was better known to Washingtonians) bought the business.
All was well. Velatis Candies were still available for its
legion of loyal patrons, which through the years had included
first ladies Ellen Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Mamie
Eisenhower. It is rumored that George W. Bush was also a big
fan, as was actress Kim Novak.
But, in the 90s, Woodward and Lothrop bankrupted. Their
beautiful stores were closed and the candy making operation
ended. That could have been the end of the story of a small
business that had its roots in Richmond.
And, that could have been the end of the story. But it’s not.
You see, among the many fans of Velatis candy, were Bill and
Carol Servais. Bill was a manager with Giant Foods in the D.C.
area and his wife, Carol, was a mortgage banker.
The couple had gotten “hooked” on Velatis back in the sixties,
when Bill’s mother introduced them to the confectionary, which
she had loved as a child growing up in D.C.
The Servais’ daughter, knowing of her parents’ love for the
candy had done a little research. “You can’t buy the candy,” she
told them, “But, you can buy the company.” And they did.
Woodward and Lothrop’s had sold their assets to the J.C. Penney
Company, and among those assets was the Velati name and its old
In 1996, the Servais acquired the company and spent a year
perfecting the recipes. In ’97 they began a mail order
operation, producing and shipping the candy from their home in
In 2002, the candy-making couple decided that since most of
their business was coming from the D.C. market, it would make
sense to move north, to reduce shipping costs. Bill Servais,
having researched the history of Velatis Candy, decided that it
would be fitting to return to the birthplace of the company,
Actually, the couple operate out of a store-front in Maidens in
Goochland County, but that’s close enough to say that Velatis
Candy has returned home. And, now Richmonders are being
introduced to a delicious treat that our ancestors enjoyed a
century and a half ago.
Bill Servais shows me his candy-making operation and tells me
some of the tales of Velatis history. It’s obvious that there’s
more here than just a candy business. He recalls one woman who
called to order a box of candy. “She told me,” he says, “that
about a year previously she had taken a box of Velatis Candy to
her father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s.”
“She related to me how when he saw the box, he became his old
self for a while,” Servais continues. “She said her father began
telling her about how his mother would take him to the candy
store as a child.”
Bill and Carol Servais say they would like to re-create the
nostalgia associated with the candy, perhaps eventually
duplicating the old storefront in a local retail operation. “I
would like to do that on our website,” Carol Servais says,
“where you could click on (an image of) the door and enter the
In addition to the eleven original recipes, which include both
the chewy and the sugary caramels, the Servais have added some
new flavors “for today’s generation,” Bill Servais says. Among
the new flavors are Pumpkin Spice, Egg Nog, Creme de Menthe, and
the very popular Black Cherry Brandy. That recipe garnered the
Servais the “Best New Food of 2004” award at the Virginia Food
and Beverage Expo, held this past March.
Besides the mail order business, Velatis Candy is sold at
several retail locations in D.C., and is now available in
Richmond at Dementi Gallery on Grove Avenue, as well as several
other locations. You can also purchase the candy at the
company’s store/kitchen in Maidens.
The Servais have teamed with Wayne Dementi to produce an outer
wrap for the candy boxes containing images of Richmond (and
nearby) landmarks. This new appearance reinforces the earliest
history of a candy that had been enjoyed for so many years among
the D.C. elite, and others.
Now, you can enjoy a taste of Richmond’s history, or, as in my
case, several tastes. If you want to learn more about Velatis
Candy, visit the website, www.velatis.com. Or, phone Velatis
Candy at 804-556-5977.