We are the Gilberts (well the boys are the Gilberts and I'm a Patterson Gilbert)--Harlon, Jack, Tommy, Stephanie, and Georgie. We're a family of way too many boys who loves Americana and wants to share a small slice of it with you. The picture above was taken at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2016--have I mentioned we're huge Star Wars and pop culture fans? If you don't know it now, you sure will after visiting our store, that's for sure.
I, meaning Stephanie, am a Carlisle native and hold an M.A. in American Studies, and I have taught popular culture and American women's history at Dickinson College. Before that, I was the Historical Society of Dauphin County's curator and have taught high school Social Studies and English. I had wanted to open a retro candy store for years, and after our third son was born with developmental differences, it became clear that both parents working wasn't sustainable. Our son's therapies and doctors' appointments were difficult to work regular jobs around, and in 2009, I convinced my husband to take a shot at owning our own business because it could provide a level of flexibility that working for other people could not. That business--Georgie Lou's--is now our family's main support. After hosting our kids' events in downtown Carlisle starting in 2010, I founded Destination Carlisle in 2016, which became a 501(c)3 in 2019 to help support our downtown businesses and organizations. I am currently the president of the organization.
Harlon, my husband, was a Circulation Manager in the newspaper industry before taking time off to care for our youngest son, Jack. He and I met while finishing our B.A.s at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, in the early 1990s. Harlon was born and raised in Orlando but most of his people are from East Texas. Yee-HAW! Harlon has been taking care of our little guy, including homeschooling, since 2012. Since COVID began, he and Jack have been extra cautious due to underlying conditions. He gets dragged into building stuff I come up with for my rather elaborate store windows that you all seem to enjoy so much and for lugging things around for Destination Carlisle.
Georgie, Tommy, and Jack are our three boys. Georgie is a 2019 graduate of Dickinson College and now works at the Dickinson Archives. He recently said he has "retired" from the shop--we'll see about that. Tommy has been working full time in the family business since graduating high school. He also helps immensely with the events we host and Destination Carlisle. Both the older boys have been a part of our store--tasting, stocking, cashiering, advising--since they were 12 and 10. Jack attended "pre-school" at Georgie Lou's and is now homeschooled. He isn't at the store much anymore--he kind of hates it now, unfortunately. Jack isn't talking yet even though he's a teenager and has physical and mental challenges that keep him from experiencing life like other kids due to having a rare genetic condition, called ZTTK Syndrome. He is still like a toddler in every way but size. He was recently diagnosed with osteoporosis as well, so we face many challenges as a special needs family. We appreciate your support and understanding as we juggle both our family's needs and our small business.
You may be wondering who exactly Georgie Lou is? Well, technically, she doesn't exist--there is no one person named Georgie Lou. The name is derived from our mothers' names--Georgenne and Lucille. When we were searching for a meaningful, retro name, I was inspired to splice our mother's names together.
"Georgie" is my mom, Georgenne Fitzpatrick Loy. Named after her father, she was born in and has lived most of her life in Carlisle. She is a baby boomer--a child of the 1950s and 1960s, and she and my pop, Len, were wonderful resources while I was planning the store. If they said they ate it or had one just like it, you can bet I tried to find it.
"Lou" comes from my husband's late mother, Lucille Palmer Gilbert. She was born in Texas and lived her adult life in Orlando, Florida. She was a child of the 1940s and 1950s. We were unfortunate to lose her in early 2008, as well as my husband's sister, Cynthia, later that year. In the last conversation she had with him, Cynthia told Harlon not to wait to experience what he wanted out of life. That advice is one reason my husband backed my crazy idea to open a candy store.
Quite simply, my grandparents' pressed glass candy dishes, filled with black licorice, Circus Peanuts, Orange Slices, and Spearmint Leaves, are the biggest inspiration for Georgie Lou's. My grandparents changed the candy in them seasonally and then circled back to their old stand-bys, and through them, I was introduced to many sweets I would never have ventured to try on my own without their influence.
As I got older, many of those candies became harder to find. I figured that if I was looking for them, other people must be too, so I wanted to try to collect those candies all in one place. I believe the simple act of sharing a piece of candy and the memory that goes with it can serve as a bridge between generations, allowing our children to "meet" our grandparents and others they may never have had a chance to know.
Some day, when Carlisle's current children speak to their children about their childhoods, we hope that Georgie Lou's is one tiny thread in the fabric of those memories. Click the button below to watch an interview with our founder, Stephanie, that was put together by some local high school students in 2015.