Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Love in a box of candy February 17, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,


SHORTLY BEFORE VALENTINE’S DAY, I roamed the aisles of a Faribault antique shop and paused to admire a collection of artfully grouped heart-shaped candy boxes.



Years have passed since I received a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I’ve gotten bags of chocolate like M & Ms. But not fancy candies in a heart. There’s just something romantic and special about candy presented that way. And, yes, I realize it’s a marketing ploy that tugs on emotions.



When Randy presented me with a heart-shaped box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day, my mouth actually dropped open. It’s not all that often he can surprise me.



His was a sweet gift for that element of the unexpected. But mostly, it was a sweet gift for the thoughtfulness and love therein. After nearly 36 years of marriage, I still appreciate the sweetness of his love.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Interesting finds inside a candy store, Part III from Jordan, Minnesota November 23, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,



BLACKBERRY PATCH SYRUPS in the most tempting flavors.




A TARDIS tucked into a corner.




Cotton candy in buckets.




Dictator soda. Say what?




Minnesota’s largest porta potties.




Pop art.




Seemingly unconnected, they are. All were photographed inside Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, also known as Jim’s Apple Farm outside Jordan along US Highway 169.

I love discovering and photographing places like this to share with you. Jim’s has been around for more than 30 years. But I’d never been there until about a month ago. It’s not quite an hour’s drive from my Faribault home.

There’s so much to see in our own backyards…if we only take the time to discover, then appreciate.

TELL ME: What should visitors see in your backyard?

FYI: Check back for one final post, featuring my two favorite photos from my visit to Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store. Click here to read my first post in this series and my second post.

Jim’s Apple Farm closes for the season on the last day of November.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The art of a candy store, Part II from Jordan, Minnesota November 21, 2016



THERE’S A CERTAIN CHARM to the signage and art at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store. Folksy, down-to-earth, eye-catching and endearing, the art connects to shoppers on a personal level. Like an old-time shopkeeper parceling penny candy into a brown paper bag.




Local artist and Jordan High School art teacher Jessica Barnd creates the art, adding a rural roots visual authenticity to this business, officially Jim’s Apple Farm.




This family-owned attraction along US Highway 169 in Jordan is more about candy than apples.




And it’s about successful marketing, primarily through the can’t-miss signature yellow building and picket fence and Jessica’s art.




Jim’s doesn’t rely on a website—there’s none—and only recently went online with a Facebook page. And only cash or checks are accepted; no credit or debit cards. Says so on end-of-the-building signage near th gravel parking lot.





For me, the experience of visiting Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store focused as much on the merchandise as on the visual artistry. But then I tend to see my world through the lens of my Canon DSLR.


Peanut logs are made on-site as are apple pies.

Peanut logs are made on-site as are apple pies.

This place provides a unique canvas to promote a business in a nostalgic way that takes us back to the mercantile. To the old-fashioned candy counter. To simpler days when a piece of penny candy was enough.




Except at Jim’s, candy counters extend through a lengthy building and the candy supply seems endless.



Minnesota's Largest Candy Store also boats the World's Largest Soda Selection. You will find flavors here that you would never even consider for pop (the Minnesota word for soda).

Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store also boasts the World’s Largest Soda Selection. You will find flavors here that you would never even consider for pop (the Minnesota word for soda).


In the new addition to the building, Jessica painted clouds for the ceiling, where hot air balloons are suspended. They move up and down.

In the new addition to the building, Jessica painted clouds for the ceiling, where hot air balloons are suspended. They glide up and down.


The basket of a hot air balloon.

The basket of a hot air balloon.


On the exterior pathway to the candy store entrance, this sign alerts customers to the availability of homemade pies.

On the exterior pathway to the candy store entrance, this sign alerts customers to the availability of homemade pies.


Some of the pumpkins for sale are painted. This was a favorite since it reminds me of Tufts University, my son's alma mater. Tufts' mascot is an elephant, its school color blue.

Some of the pumpkins for sale are painted. This was a favorite since it reminds me of Tufts University, my son’s alma mater. Tufts’ mascot is Jumbo the elephant, its school colors blue and brown.


Another surprise: Lots and lots and lots of puzzles for sale, as advertised on the business signage.

Another surprise: Lots and lots and lots of puzzles for sale, as advertised on the business signage.






FYI: Please check back as I show you more of Jim’s Apple Farm. Click here to read my first post in this series.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


One sweet experience at Minnesota’s largest candy store in Jordan November 18, 2016



UNTIL YOU’VE VISITED Minnesota’s largest candy store along US Highway 169 in Jordan, you can’t imagine a place quite like this. Better than Candy Land or the Chocolate Factory. Sprawling, brimming with candy. And more.




This 30-plus years family-run business—officially known as Jim’s Apple Farm—is an experience. A tourist attraction. A fun and unique place to shop. Think polka music pulsing through the jolting yellow machine shed style building. Think a lengthy yellow picket fence stretching along the highway like a navigational arrow. Think discovering candy you never knew existed. Think bacon.








Yes, bacon. There’s an entire section devoted to bacon.




And taffy.



And licorice.




And chocolate. And…




Soda. Soda of common and unusual flavors, some with attention-grabbing names.




I laughed and I smiled in this magical world of creativity, colors and candy.




If you crave happiness, this place excels in that emotion. It’s the type of playful setting that spirits you away from negativity. Erases worries. Offers a temporary reprieve from reality. And we all need that. Especially now.




There are pumpkins



and puzzles




and peeled apples (baking in pies). Reminders of Grandma’s kitchen. Scent of cinnamon. Red checked tablecloths. Pied Piper nuances leading you to pie still warm from the oven. Caramel apple pie for me crafted with locally-sourced apples.




But I resisted Lucky Lights, remembering the chalky taste of those addicting slim cylinders from my childhood days when smoking candy cigarettes seemed cool. I skipped purchasing any candy, which is possible if you convince yourself that you really don’t need the sugar. Other shoppers fully compensated for my solo pie purchase, bulging their shopping carts with candy.




For me, exploring Minnesota’s largest candy store was about the experience. And about the fruity sweetness of caramel-laced apple pie tasting of sky and rain and autumn in Minnesota.

TELL ME: Have you visited Jim’s Apple Farm or a similar candy store? I’d like to hear about your experience.

FYI: Located at 20430 Johnson Memorial Drive, Jordan, Jim’s is open seasonally from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily, June – November. I’d advise visiting on a weekday, like I did, because I’ve heard that on weekends the store is packed. Check Facebook for more info; there’s no website or business phone. Bring cash. Credit cards are not accepted.

Please check back as I bring you more images from this mega Minnesota candy store.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The mysterious delivery of a dozen roses May 11, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:43 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

The UPS delivery man dropped a dozen multi-colored roses and a box of chocolates off at my house late Thursday morning. I asked him: “Are those really flowers in that box?” He gave me a look like, “Lady, what do you think is in that box?” Well, sir, I’ve never received flowers in a box.

FOR SEVERAL HOURS, the mystery remained a mystery.

But I was determined to solve it—to learn the identity of the individual who sent me a dozen boxed roses and a sampler of chocolates, without a note.

I could have simply called the San Diego-based world-wide floral company listed on the return address label. But why opt for the easiest solution? I would play sleuth.

First I phoned a Minnesota floral shop and then sent two text messages before crossing my husband, floral designer sister and my oldest daughter’s boyfriend (because he is one of the few Californians I know) off the list.

Next I texted my other daughter who lives in eastern Wisconsin. She was working and couldn’t respond. I didn’t suspect her anyway given she is a recent college grad paying off student loans.

Finally, I had run out of ideas and phoned the San Diego floral company.

“We must have forgotten to put the note in the envelope,” the kindly woman on the other end of the line said.

Uh, huh.

After giving her the order number, the nice lady told me she couldn’t identify the sender, but she could share the missing message. I listened as she read an endearing Mother’s Day message from…the daughter in Wisconsin.

Thank you, Miranda, for the lovely, surprise gift. It’s the first time I’ve received a dozen roses. Ever.

They’re beautiful, just like you, my dear, sweet, precious daughter.

The chocolate sampler sent by my daughter Miranda.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A sweet treasure in downtown Lamberton March 9, 2011

DRIVE INTO ANY SMALL TOWN, U.S.A., and you’ll likely discover a treasure that the locals take for granted.

For instance, in Lamberton, Minnesota, I recently spotted a vintage sign on a beautiful brick building along the town’s main drag. I didn’t have much time to investigate as the guys in the car were anxious to keep moving. But we stopped long enough for me to snap a few photos and peer through the front window and door of Sanger’s Bakery.


This sign, suspended from Sanger's Bakery, first drew me to the building.

Inside, time stood still. An old 7-UP clock hung on the wall behind empty glass bakery cases fronted by one vintage stool (that I could see). Boxes of candy sat on the counter. I almost expected the baker aka ice cream and candy seller to walk into view, open the door and let me inside.

That, of course, was wishful thinking.

The bakery is closed, although men gather here in the morning for coffee, I’m told. You won’t find doughnuts or cinnamon rolls or loaves of freshly-baked bread, just coffee and conversation at the coffee klatsch.

Now, if I had discretionary cash, I’d buy this place, spiff it up a bit, but not too much to ruin its charming character, and reopen the combination bakery, ice cream parlor and candy store.

I could see the possibilities in that weathered sign, in the stunning brick building and in that single, empty stool.


The bakery's front window.

The bakery sits on a corner. I took this building side view through the closed window of the car, after we had driven around the block.

An up-close shot of the lettering on the bakery I wish was still open.

IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING about Sanger’s Bakery or have memories of patronizing this business, please submit a comment. I’d like to learn more about this former bakery which I consider a small-town treasure.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Happy Halloween October 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:36 PM
Tags: , , , ,

THE TRICK-OR-TREATERS, all eight of them, have come and gone.

The candy bowl remains filled with plenty of chocolate for a day or two of snacking.

I’ve switched off the front entry light and locked the door on another Halloween.

I hopes yours, like mine, was sweetened by candy and brightened by the wide smiles of jack-o-lanterns and of happy, happy kids.

I edited my jack-o-lantern photo just because, well, it’s Halloween. This is version one. Rather plain, huh? Continue scrolling down to the next image.

So…I added color. I’ve always loved lime green.
The real jack-o-lantern, no photo editing involved.

Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling