Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A photo moment: Two ladies buying squash November 29, 2016



AS A PHOTOGRAPHER, I strive to document, to tell a story, to record moments and emotions, to photograph people and places and events. Succinctly stated, I desire to present life. As it is.

Nothing gives me greater satisfaction in photography than capturing candid memorable moments. Yes, I take posed photos. But I prefer not to. So if I’m cruising with my camera and someone alerts others to my presence, I typically stop photographing. I want to be unseen. Just there. Blending in. Not always easy to do with a bulky Canon DSLR camera slung around my neck. But I try.

Recently I was rewarded with one of those prize shots while photographing at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, in Jordan. A moment of everyday life right there, outside the signature yellow building along US Highway 169.

Two elderly women were shopping for squash as if it was the most important thing in the world on a weekday afternoon in October. And to them, it was important.

I had one chance to photograph them. I love the results—the joy and concentration on their faces as they peruse the squash. I notice the clothing. I can’t recall the last time I saw a woman wearing a kerchief. There are details, too, of oversized purse (not bag) and cane in hand.

I note also the care the merchandiser takes in marketing the squash with historical information, flavor notations and graphics.

The subject of this image is not extraordinary, newsworthy or remarkable. It’s simply ordinary. Everyday. Two ladies buying squash. And therein lies its value to me as a Minnesota photographer.


Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store is now closed for the season and reopens in time for Memorial Day weekend.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The death of a most generous soul, the candy store’s nonagenarian November 28, 2016



I NEVER KNEW HIM. Only photographed him in early October. But I saw in him—in the curve of his spine, in his hands, in the flour on his pant leg—a man passionate about his work.

Herbert R. (Hippy) Wagner, 91, entrepreneur, businessman, and owner of Jim’s Apple Farm and Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store in Jordan, died on November 21 following a sudden illness. So says his obituary published in the Duluth News Tribune.




I regret not introducing myself to this man while visiting the signature yellow candy store along US Highway 169. There I spotted Hippy behind the pie counter, rag in hand wiping the countertop where I presume pie crusts are rolled and/or pies assembled. I purchased a caramel apple pie, still warm from the oven and tastefully delicious.




While waiting in line for that pie, I snapped these images. They are favorites from my candy store visit. I learned of Hippy’s death while researching to publish these photos.


As I read his obituary, it wasn’t Herb’s successes in business—he also operated the family-owned Wagner’s Supper Club back in the day— or his many years of community involvement/service that most impressed me, but his generosity.

While a Merchant Marine walking through Antwerp, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, he gave away all of his rations to starving children.

That giving spirit, according to his obit, continued throughout Herb’s life:

He was extraordinarily generous in large and small ways, from baking home-made bread and personally delivering it to the home-bound, to lending money to people who were “down on their luck” and could not get a bank loan for a business or home.

But there’s more. Faith and family were of utmost importance. He was the father of ten and a devout Catholic. He loved classical music and sometimes awakened his children to the rousing marches of John Philip Sousa piped throughout the family’s house. And I know that he also loved polkas, the only music played at the candy store.

To be remembered in an obituary with such loving words and memories speaks volumes to Hippy’s character.

I would have liked him.

FYI: Click here to read my recent series on Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store. And please check back for one final post featuring my favorite photo from that visit.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


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

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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