When Life Floods Your Candy Store, Make Salt Water Taffy

I’ve never had a big sweet tooth, but one of the flavors of vacation growing up was definitely salt water taffy (on the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk). Besides the whole rip-the-enamel-off-your-teeth stickiness, it’s one of those perfect old-timey candies you can just imagine someone a hundred years ago having a religious experience tasting for the first time.

Next time you’re tempted to give someone a “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” pep-talk, consider instead using, “when life floods your candy store, make salt water taffy.” Lemonade, on its own, is generic. But saltwater taffy, at its birth, was a capitalization on an incident, where a business owner used marketing to change the way people talked about a product.

Here’s a short version of the story:

In the late 1800s, taffy was a popular beachside snack. It was chewy, stretchy, and sweet. Not exactly ideal for a hot summer day, but regionally recognized as a vacation town treat.

In 1883 in Atlantic City, NJ, David Bradley’s candy store was flooded with seawater ruining his entire batch of taffy. Dejected, he offered a little girl who came into his shop that morning a taste of all he had, “some salt water taffy.” The little girl thought it was delicious and took a box off to show her friends. Bradley’s mother was in the backroom and loved the name “salt water taffy.” The new name of the candy was born.

New businesses sprung up on the jersey boardwalks and ultimately took the name on. While the recipe calls for salt and water, it doesn’t require a dousing in the ocean. But, “salt water taffy” sure does sound specific to a special day by the ocean. It’s a great clarification and specification of the product itself.

When life throws something frustrating our way we can take it one step beyond turning it into something positive. Like Bradley, we can turn it into something unique and worth talking about too.

Want more of the (likely apocryphal) story? Check out “The History of Salt Water Taffy.”

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