Happy Good Friday.
This is the day when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And, as every Christian knows, His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Sunday.
In the centuries since then, Christians have developed secular ways — think: Easter Bunny and Easter eggs — for celebrating this religious holiday. For many people in — and from — the town where I grew up, the secular way of celebrating Easter means one thing: Handmade chocolate eggs from Piper’s that are filled with homemade candies.
With its distinctive red-and-white-striped awning, Piper’s has been on the northeast corner of the town square in Chariton, Iowa, for more than 100 years. The candy, which has been made at the store since 1947, has been shipped around the world.
Ironically, I don’t remember eating much candy from Piper’s when I was growing up in Chariton. But I well remember Bob Piper, the second generation of his family to run the business. Before his death in 1987, I stopped at Piper’s many times on my lunch break as a Chariton High School student and ordered what was essentially a deli sandwich even if I didn’t know to call it that back then. Mr. Piper was a nice man who always had stories to tell while he worked behind the meat counter, making sandwiches that he wrapped in butcher paper and tied with string.
Several years later, I bought and shipped the chocolate eggs from Piper’s for a few years to my then-in-laws. By then, Jim and Anne Kerns owned the Chariton business. I’d call, visit with Anne and place my order. She would ship it, send me an invoice and then I’d send her a check. Talk about the benefits of being a hometown boy from a small town in southern Iowa.
Today, Jill Kerns is the second second-generation owner of the business that has been owned by only two families over the past 112 years. Jill was a few years ahead of me in school, but we’ve become at least casual friends via Facebook. She has become the kind of business owner every town like Chariton needs. The work she has done to the Piper’s building is a labor of love that perhaps only someone from Chariton would undertake.
Now that I live with three chocolate lovers, I was more than willing to look for Piper’s online and place an order this Easter for a two-pound egg, which I paid for with a credit card. It arrived earlier in the week and didn’t even make it to Good Friday, let alone Easter Sunday.
The egg was so well received in my new family that the odds are pretty good I’ll be buying more of them in the years to come, creating a story I think Bob Piper would have liked.