Chocolate moose, anyone? Maine attraction, made of confectionary staple, turns 25
Lenny, the world’s only life-sized chocolate moose, celebrated his 25th birthday this summer at his “home” at Len Libby Candies in Scarborough, Maine.
Lenny’s birthday was July 1, 2022, and his “caregivers” are still excited about it.
The idea to make a life-sized chocolate moose came from former business owner Maureen Hemond, said John DeGrinney, co-owner of Len Libby Candies, in an interview with Fox News Digital.
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DeGrinney and his wife, Gisele — Hemond’s daughter — took over operations of the store in 2013, and have owned it officially since about 2016.
Hemond and her late husband, Fern, ran the store for about 40 years. Hemond’s father purchased the store in the 1940s from Len Libby himself.
Libby opened the first iteration of Len Libby Candies in Scarborough, Maine, in 1926.
The store moved to its present location off Route One after Libby sold the store.
Hemond is now 82 years old and has since “retired to working 35 hours a week” at the store, said DeGrinney.
“She just loves making candy,” he said, noting that Lenny was inspired by the store’s existing molded chocolate moose product.
“Lenny has sort of taken on a life of his own. He’s a trivial pursuit question and he’s been on national television.”
Len Libby Candies sells molded chocolate in a variety of shapes, including moose and bunnies and — most recently — a three-quarter pound “Eastah Lobstah” (the Maine pronunciation of the in-demand crustacean).
The “Eastah Lobstah” debuted during Easter of this year, DeGrinney said.
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“Originally, Lenny was supposed to be not such a large project, but my mother-in-law doesn’t really do anything small scale,” he said, adding that there was “quite a discussion” when it was revealed how expensive it would be to construct a life-sized moose.
“I think my late father-in-law almost had a stroke [at the cost], but they went forward with it, and it has really been a smashing success,” he said.
“We actually get international travelers who have come to see the moose.”
Over a four-week period in 1997, Lenny was sculpted out of 1,700 pounds of milk chocolate. He resides in an air-conditioned showroom in the “habitat” of a dyed white chocolate pond.
About eight years after his arrival, Lenny gained a companion: He was joined by Libby the black bear and her cubs, Cocoa and Chip.
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Both animal choices are significant to the state. The moose is the state’s official animal, and the University of Maine’s athletic nickname is the “Black Bears.”
Lenny has “sort of taken on a life of his own,” said DeGrinney. “He’s a trivial pursuit question and he’s been on national television.”
He did not think his mother-in-law would have had any idea, he said, that Lenny would “take off quite the way it has.”
“But I think she was confident in her vision,” he said.
In addition to Lenny, Libby, Cocoa and Chip, Len Libby Candies is known for its Bangor taffy, which DeGrinney said is “far and away” the best-selling product in the store.
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Bangor taffy has its origins on the now-defunct Boston-to-Bangor train line. The sugary confection was a hot product on the train line even in the early 20th century, DeGrinney noted.
“The porter would come around with a basket on his army of Bangor taffy, and the original creator of it wasn’t able to keep up with the demand,” he said. “So they approached Len Libby and he started making Bangor taffy in the very early 1900s.”
“Every now and then, we sort of sand him down and take him down a layer or two, and then we have a local artist reapply tempered chocolate to him …”
That same recipe is what the DeGrinneys still use today.
DeGrinney makes a batch about every day and a half, he said. The store is “making candy the same way we were 100 years ago,” he added.
One of his personal favorite “signature recipes” is for a Maine candy called a Needham, a coconut candy covered in chocolate.
Lenny is actually quite a bit heavier than his wild counterparts.
A “very large” male moose in Maine weighs about 1,400 pounds, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
At 25, Lenny has also far outlived the natural life expectancy of a moose in Maine.
The animals typically live to be about 10 years old and “rarely live past 20,” the department notes.
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Part of the reason Lenny has “lived” so long is his careful upkeep. Lenny has a metal frame, as 1,700 pounds of chocolate is not self-supporting. He also a thin coat of lacquer as his top layer, said DeGrinney.
“He has a little coat of lacquer on him, over the chocolate, but the chocolate still ages,” he explained.
“So every now and then, we sort of sand him down and take him down a layer or two, and then we have a local artist reapply tempered chocolate to him — and then [we] reapply the lacquer.”