Living The Sweet Life At Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen

Pamela and Dennis with caramel apples

Pamela Canelake-Matson and Dennis Matson make homemade caramel apples.


The right food in the right place brings together friends, family and community. A candy shop that does things the traditional old way by hand is destined to become a landmark enjoyed by all.

A Family Tradition

Now celebrating a seventh season with a spring opening, Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen transforms candy shopping into a family event with a small town feel. A trip along Lake Superior’s North Shore would not be complete without a stop at the candy shop owned by Pamela Canelake-Matson, Dennis Matson and Patricia Canelake.

Kick back and enjoy the rewards of three generations of Northland candy makers. Stock up on all of your old time candy favorites – candy apples, maple creams, chocolate fudge, frozen chocolate-covered bananas, turtles and truffles to name just  a few. Dare to try some new ones too – chocolate peanut butter buckeyes, fruit-nut bark or key lime truffles. Complimentary candy samples are dotted in dishes at every turn of the store.

Sue with u betcha bar tray

A fresh batch of U’ Betcha Bars made with pride.

U’ Betcha Bar Comeback

The famed housemade caramel pop U’ Betcha Bars dipped in a slavering of thick milk chocolate and covered with the nutty crunch of chopped walnuts have made a comeback for 2013. Dennis Matson, never afraid to tell someone how it really is with a bona fide real Duluth-minded, “U’ betcha!” adorns each U’ Betcha Bar with a winning two pops up label.

Kindred spirits of all things coated with chocolate or a dollop of caramel flock to the Knife River store nestled among the lake breeze swayed pines of Minnesota’s North Shore. The traditional white wooden store housed Mel’s Fish before its transformation into candy land. The metamorphosis was a large commitment for this family business to complete, but the results are well worth the effort. Today, everyone, young and old at heart, feels like a kid in a candy shop at Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen.

Candy’s Contagious

Food bloggers are no exception and I was overwhelmed by the power of bonbons. Rolling up your sleeves, putting on an apron and working elbow-deep in candy is fun. The Canelake’s, Dennis Matson and their staff make it look easy buzzing around from one point in the candy-making process to another while attentively assisting the needs of customers — all with the grace of an Edwardian classical dance floor party. This family brings a tradition of excellence to their business that reaches back more than 50 years to the original Canelake Candy Iron Range store, which co-owned by Pamela and Patricia’s father, John Canelake.

“Every day when I cook I think of my dad. He always told me to show visitors the candy making and make new memories. I love inviting  people into the kitchen  to see the kettle, the marble table and the old Canelake’s  Candy photos on the wall,” says Pamela Canelake Matson.

Pamela dotting caramel turtles

Pamela Canelake Matson adds a layer or two of homemade caramel to a batch of pecan turtles.


As resident candy maker for one day, I enjoyed the sweet surroundings of Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen and the joyful workings of the staff. They were as delightful as the candy. Can you taste all of that good humor in the candy?

The sweet craving fulfilling taste starts with a homey aroma like Grandmother’s kitchen at Christmas time or a birthday. Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen has a thick honey perfume that flavors the air inside and outside of the store. The sugary fragrance would make anyone hungry and do a lot to convert even an adamant non-candy believer.

Pull Up A Chair And Eat Candy

Candy can buy some happiness and Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen has mastered every sweet morsel. Head up North, buy a handful or two of candy and plant yourself with a comfortable slouch into a vintage, classic chair on the store front porch or one of the picnic tables in the lawn. It’s a Northland style-candy park. Yes, you can even buy some chocolate fish.

Great! Lakes Candy Kitchen is located at 223 Scenic Drive, Knife River, MN 55609, (218) 834-2121. Summer hours are 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sunday – Saturday.

Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen store front

The Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen store front has true Northland trimmings in the shape of a fish.


Disclaimer: I grew up on Minnesota’s North Shore. Dennis Matson, Pamela Canelake-Matson and their son, Andy Matson were my neighbors. Those were the best days!



  1. Peter Canelake says:

    Dear Edina Eater,
    Please forgive me if I’m mistaken but this quote in your excellent article is a half truth. “This family brings a tradition of excellence to their business that reaches back more than 100 years to the original Canelake Candy Iron Range store, which was run by Pamela and Patricia’s father, John Canelake.”
    It is rumored that between 1946 and 1983 Canelake’s Home Made Candies in Virginia, MN was owned and operated by two brothers, Leo and John Canelake. Leo was 2 years senior to his brother John. And together (they) created this successful Iron Range business.
    Peter Canelake

    • Lee Ann Owens says:

      Thank you Peter Canelake for the clarification on the long history of candy making this family has in the Northland. It is a pleasure to know more about the details of the Canelake family’s store operations. Thank you again for your input on the subject.

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