An often overlooked gem in Binghamton’s urban scene, M&D-R Nuts, at 45 Court St., is one of the most unique fixtures in the city’s long and illustrious history. A nut and candy specialty store, it’s a rare vestige of old-world ideals that harkens to a time well before the mass production of consumer goods.
The quaint little shop doesn’t look like much from the outside, but its walls house a story that’s 87 years old. It’s a story that spans war times, recessions, depressions and the rise and fall of the city around it. While many things in Binghamton’s city proper have come and gone over the last century, the nut shop has largely remained the same. Originally a Planters Peanut shop — the sixth store Planters opened — the store has changed many hands over the last nine decades. After Planters discontinued their brick and mortar operations, the next owners decided to maintain the store’s original vocation: serving freshly roasted nuts and quality candy to the people of Binghamton.
When you enter the store, you’re immediately hit with its old-fashioned charm. In the front of the store you’ll find Sergey Kory, manager and head roaster, as he practices and perfects his trade to roast the best nut. It’s a skill he’s developed since coming to the store four years ago and a craft about which he’s become both passionate and knowledgeable.
“The way we roast and do everything is all the old-fashioned way,” Kory said. “I did a little research, there’s only seven stores in the United States like this left.”
The story behind the shop’s name, M&D-R Nuts, comes from the names of the previous owners, Marie, Doris and Richard. When the store’s current owner, David Bradstreet, bought the place in 2010, he wanted to keep much of everything the same. Preservation is a big part of the store’s culture. When Planters began closing their stores, they dismantled their cast iron roasters. However, since the subsequent owners of the original store intended on keeping it a nut and candy shop, they were able to retain the original cast iron roaster. To this day, the peanuts sold at M&D-R Nuts are roasted in that roaster, which bears the Planters insignia.
“Basically you can look and see that the wallpaper is still original, a lot of the things in the store are still original,” Kory said. “I mean, this store has been here through World War II, Great Depression and there’s a lot of history in it.”
You can still find the original Planters logo on the tile work at the entrance, further reminding you of the timeless nature of the store. Even the scales they use to weigh their products are nearly 100 years old, and yet they still pass their inspections by New York’s Bureau of Weights and Measures.
The store sells your typical mix of nuts, but the appeal is in the old-fashioned process of roasting. When you buy their nuts, you’re investing in a product that’s very personal and very professional.
“For example, if you take the cashew — it’s the most popular item in our store and cashews are very unique because it has a different density of all the nuts — when I cook it, I take it out of the fryer and I put it on my drying pan, the cashew is still cooking even though its out of the oil so I gotta wipe it down,” Kory said. “I wipe the oil off of the cashew and then it dries up, but what’s tough to roasting is when I put salt on it, because that’s when it stops cooking.”
Kory’s process ensures that every nut gets the same level of attention and care. Skilled in his field, the art of roasting nuts is much more involved than one might think. It takes consideration, awareness and knowledge of what each type of nut demands in order to roast it to perfection. With a keen eye, and a trained nose, Kory knows that each nut has a very small window of perfection. It’s his job to know where that window is and to make sure he hits the mark for every batch.
“Cashew is the most difficult nut to roast and it takes about three minutes,” Kory said. “Take a less dense nut like a pecan or walnut, it takes only 10 seconds to roast. My roaster is set to 360 degrees — that’s the temperature that I use for all the nuts, and then I just measure and look for the color and smell sometimes. Green pistachios have a nice aroma when you roast them. It’s similar to the way you would roast coffee.”
Apart from nuts, the store also sells a variety of candies and chocolates that are held to a higher standard than much of what you might find elsewhere. The fudge is made in-house by Doris, the previous owner, and the store uses the nuts it roasts in some of its fudge. The chocolates come from several sources and, for the quality you get, are very fairly priced. The espresso truffles are particularly exceptional, if you’re into that sort of thing.
What the store demands of itself, it also demands in its suppliers. They don’t want to carry generic, basic sweets that you could find in the supermarket, but rather a range of delicious treats that challenge the very idea of what candy should be. One example of this standard is shown through the gummy bears they sell, which puts Haribo to shame.
“Our gummy bears are different from gummy bears that you buy at CVS,” Kory said. “People will come in and say, ‘Why should I buy gummy bears from you?’ Well, because our gummy bears are all different flavors. They’re not just different colors, they’re different flavors. That’s that makes out store very unique. Its not just anywhere that you can find these products, you have to come directly to us.”
For Kory, the store is more than just a nut shop; it is an important part of their clients’ lives.
“The store has clientele and customers that come here through generations,” Kory said. “We don’t really advertise that much, but customers keep coming back. Most people will move out of here but they’ll still be coming back to check if the place is still here because it’s something that they used to do back when they were little. They have a lot of happy memories here.”
Stores like M&D-R Nuts embody a time that was tragically lost to cost and convenience. For those who feel a disparity between their food and their expectations, perhaps it’s time to give stores like M&D-R Nuts a chance. For the fraction more you pay, the quality you receive more than justifies the cost.