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 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.
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 English B.A.s at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, in 1993. 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. He also picks up some evening shifts at the store and bags all our bulk candy because after doing it myself for seven years, I kind of loathe it. He also gets dragged into building stuff I come up with for my rather elaborate store windows that you all seem to enjoy so much.
Georgie, Tommy, and Jack are our three boys. Georgie is a 2019 graduate of Dickinson College, and Tommy has been working full time in the family business since graduating high school. Both the older boys have been a part of our store--tasting, stocking, cashiering, advising--since they were 11 and 9. Jack attended "pre-school" at Georgie Lou's and is now homeschooled. Jack isn't talking yet and has physical and mental challenges that keep him from experiencing life like other kids. He's not at the store much anymore--he kind of hates it--but he might walk up to you with an iPad in his hands and look up inquisitively if he is. Don't be alarmed if he gets too close--he just doesn't understand personal space.
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-sounding name, I was inspired to dice and 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 Lou, 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 so many sweets I would never have ventured to try on my own.
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.