NOLA’s Memory Lane is Paved in Gold Brick Chocolates

There’s no hiding Louisiana’s nostalgic connection to Elmer’s confections, as many natives confess “it’s just not Easter without Elmer’s!”

For kids all over the country, Easter morning will arrive with the sweet surprise of jelly bean-stuffed plastic eggs and hollow chocolate bunnies, but the baskets in Louisiana are just a little bit different. We still gorge ourselves on Cadbury Creme Eggs and marshmallowy Peeps, but Easter’s just not complete without Elmer’s confections.

Like many cultural aspects of the region, the local love for Elmer’s has a long history. Founded in 1855, this local confectionery started life as the Miller Candy Company located in a large building on the corner of Jackson and Levee streets in New Orleans. At the tender age of 16, Christopher Henry Miller emigrated from Germany seeking his fortune. After learning the pastry arts working in area restaurants, Miller decided to open his own candy company. His son-in-law Augustus Elmer eventually joined him and around 1914, with the addition of Augustus’s five sons, the business became the Elmer Candy Corporation.

Fast-forward to 1963 when Chicago-native Roy Nelson purchased the candy corporation. Due to antiquated facilities at the New Orleans location, Roy moved operations an hour’s drive Northwest to Ponchatoula, a small town in Louisiana well-known for its strawberries. The Nelsons kept the company in Ponchatoula, and in the family and today, Elmer Candy’s CEO is Robert Nelson, Roy’s great-grandson. “I didn’t know there was any other kind of Easter candy when I was growing up!” exclaims Robert.

Though it may be difficult to comprehend for any Gold Brick-gobbling New Orleanian, the bulk of Elmer’s business does not come from their Easter candy. In fact, as the 2nd largest manufacturer of heart-shaped boxed chocolates in the country, it’s actually Valentine’s Day that keeps the company chugging along. “It’s [Easter candy] a very small part of our business,” says Nelson. “It’s right around five percent. Locals are very surprised by that!”

Folks from Beaumont, Texas to Pensacola, Florida would likely disagree, because the Gold Brick Eggs and Heavenly Hash fly off Gulf Coast shelves in the few short weeks they’re available each year. In fact, Elmer’s products frequently outsell the national leaders locally in the Easter candy market. “People who move away from Louisiana will call us when they can’t find it in the stores because they figured it’s everywhere,” says Nelson.

After well over 150 years in business, Elmer’s has become so intertwined in the lives of locals that company artifacts will pop up in the most unexpected places. “It’s interesting because over the years, I’ve had people come to me and say — hey you know, I found this box in my parent’s attic and it had these candy molds,” says Nelson. “It was kind of one of those things, when people found them, they saved them.” The antique molds to make hollow chocolate bunnies and large solid chocolate eggs are living proof that residents’ memories aren’t just the Mandela effect.

Heavenly Hash, Gold Brick Eggs and Pecan Eggs are the three magical confections by Elmer Candy which cause the local Easter candy kerfuffle each year. Made with roasted almonds surrounded by fluffy marshmallow all enrobed in chocolate, Heavenly Hash was originally created at a New Orleans department store, but in 1923 Elmer’s purchased the recipe and it’s been their signature ever since. In fact, Heavenly Hash just celebrated it’s centennial anniversary on February 2nd, 2023. Gold Brick Eggs are made with rich milk or dark chocolate, crunchy pecans and a “creamy melt-a-way center” and finally, the Pecan Egg is a chewy nougat surrounded by buttery pecans in a rich caramel.

Just mentioning Heavenly Hash or Gold Brick Eggs stirs evocations of Easters past from people all over the area. WDSU News’ famed meteorologist Margaret Orr has fond memories of Elmer’s confections. “I can still remember biting into my first Gold Brick Egg as a child, and thinking joy,” says Orr. “I love Gold Brick Eggs, my favorite as a child, and even today! I put them in my children’s baskets, and always…always hid one away for me.”

Lauren LeBlanc Haydel sporting an Elmer’s Heavenly Hash 100th Anniversary tee at her shop Fleurty Girl

Popular t-shirt shop Fleurty Girl‘s founder and local celebrity Lauren LeBlanc Haydel can’t imagine an Easter passing her by without Elmer’s chocolates. “I remember when I got a little older, I requested the Easter Bunny to not give me a solid chocolate bunny, and instead I wanted that whole package of six Heavenly Hash Eggs” exclaims Haydel. “I always get excited when I see those shiny blue packages in the stores. It just means spring is right around the corner. It’s not the blooming flowers for me!”

Veteran chef and restaurateur Greg Sonnier of Gabrielle Restaurant grew up eating Elmer’s and, along with Lauren LeBlanc Haydel, associated the confections with springtime. “We know what time of year it is when Elmer chocolate candies are around,” says Sonnier. “Spring has sprung, but it also reminded us that school was almost over!”

Internationally acclaimed New Orleans artist Terrance Osborne vividly remembers getting Gold Brick Eggs every Easter. “As a child, it’s all I got,” says Osborne. “It’s synonymous with Easter.” As an adult, Osborne buys the gold wrapped chocolates for his wife and children. “One time I came back with something else, something I thought might be a good substitute, and she [his wife] just said ‘No. I will not eat that!’ They run out so fast, they just disappear from the shelves.”

From left to right: Tom Cianfichi (Batt’s husband), niece Bailey Batt and actor Bryan Batt

Finally, New Orleans-born actor Bryan Batt, known for his work in AMC’s Mad Men and acclaimed 2013 film 12 Years a Slave, has been a lifelong fan of Elmer’s chocolate. He’s for “Gold Brick all the way . . . as a kid I thought they were the bricks for Dorothy’s yellow brick road!” Apparently, it was a local myth believed and beloved by children statewide.

Easter is just around the corner and with it, Elmer’s confections will make their brief, but annual appearance on local supermarket shelves. Have you ever tasted a Gold Brick melt-a-way Egg or Heavenly Hash? What cherished recollections do you have of Elmer’s candies? We’d love to hear about it!

*Article originally published in the April 2023 issue of Where Y’at Magazine

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