published by Olivia Malley Journalist with Saltwire News

When Debbie Sangster’s mother died in December of 2020, she asked her daughter to do a couple of things. One of the requests was to never forget her. So this Halloween, Sangster is making candy apples - just like her mother. Sangster is the owner of Deb’s Hidden Cafe in Scotsburn, Pictou County. The shop, nestled on Route 256, is small in size, but Sangster packs in a lot, including holiday spirit. On Oct. 17, Sangster went to Facebook to announce she was making her mom’s famous candy apples. Quickly orders began to flood in, with some people calling to talk to her about her mom. Sangster says she didn’t think she would get this kind of response. She didn’t realize how much her mom was loved not only in Thorburn but all over. Everyone seemed to know her. Mary Stewart of Thorburn was known as the candy apple lady. Sangster came to her house as a foster child when she was four. Stewart was making the candy apples then, and she continued making candy apples into her 80s when she managed to make 750 apples for just one holiday season. Tricker-or-treaters would come to her door for the apples, but Stewart also gave them to friends, seniors and people that were shut-in. “Mary was one of a kind. For many years she would go out of her way and take down a bunch of candy apples for my family to enjoy,” said Mike Pettipas in a message to The News. Pettipas says people from all over the county knew Stewart for her kindness and generosity.

Yet candy apples were not the only thing that attracted people to Stewart’s home - it was also among the most decorated places in the community. “There was not a holiday that went by that she didn’t decorate for.” She says people thought they were rich because they would have so many decorations, but she says her mom just put everything into her holiday displays. Deb’s Hidden Cafe embodies this spirit with Halloween hats, Easter bunny visits and Christmas sweets and gifts. “I didn’t realize how much I was like her until she was gone,” said Sangster. The candy apples she makes this year, as well as the candy apple jelly, will all be in memory of her mom. She said she doesn’t know how her mom used to get the candy apples perfectly round on the bottom, joking that she will need to practice. Planning on continuing this tradition in the coming years, she will undoubtedly get her practice in. Sangster hopes she is making her mom proud. She said she saw a rainbow the day her mom died - one that could be seen from Thorburn to New Glasgow. She found herself thinking of her mom while making candy apples the other day. After a call with her aunt, where she shared the positive response the candy apples were getting, her grandson got her attention. “He said ‘nanny you got to see this,’” she said. “There was a rainbow right up over my shop and down the other side, so I feel that she was with us. People can stop by the shop for an apple or two or call the cafe at 902-382-3444 to inquire about an order, while supplies last.