Lance's Journal: Chocolateer Clive Hilgert, June 29

Clive Hilgert has worked long and hard to become a member of the National Candy Hall of Fame.

The Kenesaw, Nebraska native continues to enjoy a long and storied career of sweet success.

Even at 93 years of age, Clive Hilgert never misses a day of work.

Hilgert has been in the candy business for more than 70 years, and he's not about to stop now.

He says he's living the American dream, and has had a sweet tooth for quite awhile.

"Whenever I got a little extra money, I went and bought caramels," said Hilgert.

The Lincoln High School graduate started his candy career in downtown Lincoln, as a soda jerk at Russell Stover Candies in 1934.

Seven decades later, Hilgert has never become tired of chocolate.

"I generally have some every day," said Hilgert.

Hilgert worked for Russell Stover in Kansas City for 33 years, and started up Sugar Plum Candies in Lincoln in 1983.

He says the only way you can continue to make your candy better, is to taste it along the way.

These days, Hilgert doesn''t have his fingers in the chocolate much literally, but he sure does figuratively.

"I guess I wouldn't know what to do if I wasn't a part of it," said Hilgert.

Hilgert has now cut back to half days in the store, but still enjoys coming in and sharing his 74 years worth of candy making expertise.

"It's a lot of fun on the basis of here's a student," said Hilgert, talking about one of his candy makers.

Throughout the year, Hilgert invites profession candy makers to his confectionary school.

"A girl gets good enough in time to just take it like this," said Hilgert.

There is one main reason Rita Lara came 1,400 miles from Mystic, Connecticut to Lincoln, "Because I really wanted to learn from a master choclateer, someone who had a lot of experience," said Lara.

Katrinka Schnabel has worked with Hilgert for 40 years, and has no doubt his passion for work has been his key to longevity.

"I think if Clive weren't working in the candy business and he didn't come to work every day he would no longer be here," said Schnabel.

Just how much longer does the candy man think he will be working? "Probably until I drop," said Hilgert.

When the caramel tastes this sweet, who would really want to leave anyway?

"Delicious," said Hilgert as he tastes a piece of chocolate.

There are two Sugar Plum Candy locations in Lincoln.

One is located at 333 North Cotner, the other, where Hilgert does most of his taste testing, is located at 5500 Old Cheney Road.

For more information on Sugar Plum Candy's Basic Candy School, click the link below.


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