The smell of fresh baked breads and sweets permeates the air walking into the nostalgic Union Mills Confectionery.
Besides being situated along the old Erie Canal, Lock 50, even the name of the confectionery is steeped in history.
Union Mills was located in West Portsmouth alongside the Erie Canal and was described as a “bustling community” at the time.
An old flour mill was located near the confectionery more than 100 years ago when the Ohio and Erie Canals were used extensively.
Today, outside the confectionery, an old milepost from the canal sits outside and a large painting of the mill and canal greets visitors.
Inside, an old chopping block, a wood cooking stove and several antiques decorate the interior.
A large modern baking area with stainless counters and baking supplies are provided for the daily work of making sweets like home baked pies, cakes, cookies, pastries, candy and breads.
“People don't really know much about the history of this area,” said Debbie Temple-Blevins, owner. “So, over here we have a large collage of picture postcards that Bill Glockner had made and it has a lot of the west side and the Erie Canal in this area.”
Just down the road from the confectionery is the oldest house in Scioto County, the Philip Moore Jr. stone house.
“In the canal days, this was a stopping point,” she said. “There was a general store and a post office, and it was really bustling.”
The old mill burned down in the early 1900s. Temple-Blevins' parents started the Mex-Itali Inn on the site of the old mill in 1968.
“We just had generations of cooks and bakers on my mom's side of the family,” she said.
Temple-Blevins pointed to a large oval wooden bowl and rolling pin on display.
“That was our great-grandmother's where she made her bread dough and biscuits,” she said. “Her name was Charity Hale and she had a boarding house in New Boston in the 1920s. So, our grandma had to make biscuits for 50 boarders every morning before she went to school.”
Old dishes and glassware handed down from ancestors decorate the confectionery.
The family needed more room to bake breads, cakes and desserts for the Mex-Itali Inn, so her parents bought the property where the confectionery is located just for that purpose. In 1997, they opened the bakery.
“It was more or less my mom's dream, so I don't know how I ended up in it,” Temple-Blevins laughed.
She worked at both the restaurant and the bakery and about five years ago, her sister, Charity Whisnant, moved back to the area.
When their parents sold Mex-Itali in 2002 and retired, they opened the bakery to the public.
“My sister bakes the bread and makes the pies, does the cookies,” Temple-Blevins said.
Whisnant also decorates the confectionery according to the season.
Tammy Logan is the bakery's cake decorator and Sondi Conley does everything from icing cakes to making sweet rolls. Rick Holsinger works once a week making icing.
“We've been really blessed,” Temple-Blevins said. “At Easter, we probably did over 100 cakes and over 100 dozen rolls - and cookies, I don't even remember - we just lose count.”
Recently, a lot of people from Ashland, Ky., Columbus, Cincinnati and all parts of the state have stopped to buy their sweets from the confectionery.
“We had one lady from Columbus who said, ‘There just aren't any bakeries in Columbus,'” she said.
Some of the specialties include chocolate truffle cookies, raspberry-filled cookies, fresh made cream horns, “made from scratch” pies, and all kinds of rolls, turnovers, muffins, cupcakes and petit fours.
All the pies are baked fresh by special order only.
A selection of sugar-free sweets includes sugar-free chocolate, carrot cake, cream horns, fruit, pecan and cream pies.
Jelly Bellys and Amish jams are some of the few selections that are not made at the bakery.
The confectionery is located at 1120 Galena Pike, West Portsmouth, and it is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.