For whatever reason—most likely, the heavy late-19th-early-20th-cenutry influx of German, Dutch, Belgian and other immigrants in the area—there are a high proportion of old-fashioned, quality, family chocolate shops in the towns of the Fox River Valley, nestled around Lake Winnebago in central-eastern Wisconsin.
Among there are Seroogy's in De Pere; Beernsten's, a wonderful old soda fountain in Manitowoc where you can also sit in a booth and enjoy a cheap lunch of bratwurst and chips; Oaks, a century-old candy shop in downtown Oshkosh; and Hughes Chocolates, an unfathomably quaint chocolate factory situated in a white clapboard family home on a suburban street. (The New York Times called it "a figment of Wisconsin's imagination.) You walk through a side door down to the basement, where you can buy plain white boxes of bulked chocolates (no fancy individual wrappers) from a small counter in a room so cramped you have no choice but to leave immediately after you make your purchase. Hughes chocolates have been a Christmas tradition in my family for decades.