Anderson's Candy Shop History
Arthur & Gertrude Anderson open Anderson's Candy Shop on Armitage Ave in Chicago across from the Armitage Movie Theatre. The young couple had no capital, so they borrowed $200 from Arthur's brother and with it purchased equipment and ingredients to start their business. Their first purchases included a $25 copper kettle and a used marble slab with a crack in it for $9. (A marble we still cook on today!)
Arthur learned the basics of candy-making from his former employers Charles Gunther and John Kranz, both famous Chicago confectioners at the time. With their blessing, he opens his first "store;" which was simply a rented room to cook in (pictured above and right).
That first year Arthur focused on perfecting a Peanut Bar recipe which he made in batches of 100 bars and sold at cigar stands. Demand grew for his high quality candy and by the end of the first year he was netting around $25 a week. This allowed him enough to purchase a candy recipe book for $10 and to begin experimenting with expanding his line.
Arthur and Gertrude welcome their first child Raynold L. Anderson. Gertrude and Arthur are seen here holding their son proudly in front of their first real storefront in Chicago. Arthur's candies quickly become popular with adults who are struck by its quality. They request Art learn to make chocolates and so he enlists the help of a chocolate dipper who teaches him the trade in just three weeks. Chocolate sells well except for in the summertime. And prices for Arthur's original line range from 50 to 75 cents per pound.
Art and Gertrude's business continues to grow allowing for "handsome" packaging printed with their motto, "Not how cheap but how good." During this time Arthur has increasing difficulty sourcing thick, high quality chocolate. One day a friend introduces him to John Bachman who represents a large Eastern bulk chocolate manufacturer. The meeting results in Mr. Bachman advancing Arthur a credit on 1,000 pounds of chocolate in a make-good-pay-it-back deal. Art makes good and his family uses the same company for candy supplies for most of the next century.
Chicago rents rise through the 1920s from $25 to $35 to $60 and when they hit $85 in 1926, Arthur and Gertrude decide to move their family and their business "out to the country" to reduce overhead. Arthur reasons that more people will be driving soon and taking to the highways as automobiles improve. So, he moves into a two story house on Route 12 where the store is still today.
The Andersons, stranded by the Depression in rural Richmond, turn their living room into a candy kitchen and add a front porch to serve as a storefront. The family has to stick it out 11 years before they build up the same volume of business they enjoyed in Chicago (about 2,500 pounds of candy a year). One of the problems the Andersons face is the delay of paving Route 12 - which doesn't happen until the early 1930s as part of various government funded recovery programs.
Arthur visits the World's Fair in Chicago and brings home McHenry County's first air conditioner. With this exciting new equipment, he is able to produce candy in his basement and hand it up through the floor grate to his cooled front porch /storefront all year round! The arched doorway in our showroom today is where the special Frigidaire door was hung that kept the cooled air inside!
Route 12 is finally paved, air conditioning is now available and it looks like the Great Depression might be nearing end. Things look better for Arthur and his family. To survive the Depression years and during the long wait for the promised Route 12, Arthur has an agreement with the retail stores back on Armitage Avenue to regularly travel back to the city and supply customers with his candy. During the Depression sales which had averaged $2 dropped to 50 cents, per customer. Even the wealthy purchased a quarter's worth of candy instead of a boxful. Chocolates formerly at 80 cents per pound dropped to 45 cents per pound or 3 pounds for $1. Above Arthur hand paints sign in the front yard of the business. He wants motorists to be sure to see his advertisements and takes great pride in his lettering.
To help survive the lean years, Arthur makes several modifications to the building. He cuts the back half of the house off and moves it to the neighboring lot. He rents it out for 10 years and later sells the property. He also builds a two-story apartment on the side of his building to rent out for extra income. That apartment can be seen in the photo below behind the deciduous tree on the right.
Business begins to recover from the Depression and with the increasing ability to air condition more of the building, Arthur builds on again. A dedicated chocolate "dipping room" is added and also a "cooking room" for making his famous centers like Nougat, Caramel and Buttercream. Pictured is a teenage Raynold. He is cutting into a slab of caramel that has cooled on a marble slab. The equipment Raynold is using - the table, copper kettle hanging on the side of the table and the knife - are still regularly used in the production of candies today.
Raynold works at the shop while attending Richmond Burton Community High School (the first of three generations of RB grads) and also for the first few years afterward. Although he never thinks of the candy business as, "anything to go in to." His sister Gwendolyn and mother also both help run the storefront and do the book keeping.
Shortly after the United States enters World War II, Raynold is drafted into the U.S. Army where he serves in the intelligence branch. He serves in England, France and Germany, and takes part in the Battle of the Bulge. In 1943, because of the war time shortages of sugar and chocolate and without his son's help, Arthur is forced to close his business for regular service. He opens for short periods of time on a one-box-per-customer basis as he is able to get supplies. The sign below reads, "Closed INDEFINITELY because of help situation."
Raynold Anderson, is drafted into the U.S. Army and travels to Europe with the General Patton's 7th Armored Division during World War II. He serves both in the intelligence section of the service and as a Military Policeman. He writes letters home to his mother weekly, which the Anderson family keeps and treasures to this day. After he comes home, Raynold works in Chicago as a bank teller and a fabric salesman at the Merchandise Mart. After three years however, Raynold decided that the "rat race" is not for him and he returns home to re-open the candy shop.
After trying out "city life' Raynold returns to Richmond and re-opens the shop on a fulltime basis. He is swamped with business. Through the years customers had been watching the sign -closed indefinitely- and when the OPEN sign goes up, they flood back in. Not only did Raynold discover a new appreciation for the business that became his career, but he found, right next door, the woman who would be his partner in marriage, parenthood and business. Violet "Vi" Schessel was right next door working as a telephone switchboard operator.
Raynold and Violet welcome their first son, Leif Raynold Anderson. The family of three lives upstairs at the candy shop while Arthur and Gertrude live in the apartment attached to the side of the building. Here Raynold bounces Leif on his shoulders outside of the front porch of that apartment.
Raynold and Vi welcome second son, Lars Roald Anderson. The family lives above the shop until toddler aged Leif learns to open the windows in the nursery and climb on to the roof to wave at customers. Vi puts her foot down and the family moves to a home across town in the Hillview Subdivision on Golf Ave.
Dipping room staff work hard to hand dip chocolates and to mold solid chocolate rabbits. The table that the women work at was Arthur and Gertrude's dining room table which was re-purposed for chocolate dipping in the 1920s. Sections were removed and replaced with small marble slabs for working with the "wet" chocolate. The dipping room table is still in use in Anderson's Candy Shop today and is the table we still dip all of our handmade chocolates on. Also in the photograph is a "stack" of "boards' which are literally wooden boards used to dip chocolate on and to hold them while they dry. The boards were fashioned by Arthur in the 1920s from shipping crates that supplies arrived in. The boards too, are still used today in our shop. The chocolate rabbits in the photo may also look familiar to longtime Anderson's Candy fans. The same metal molds in this photograph are the molds we use now during each Easter season to make our famous solid chocolate Easter bunnies!
The American consumer changed dramatically. Many women who had jobs during WWII kept them and with the men back, many families enjoyed disposable income for the first time. Additionally, a baby boom produced millions of young families eager to get out in their new, more reliable automobiles and see the world that was brought into their home by television networks that now covered the nation. Shows like "Passage to Adventure" and "Bold Journey" showed the national wonders of our continent and people wanted to see it all!
Also, in 1956, Congress passed the "National System of Interstate and Defense Highways" Act which called for 41,000 miles of new highway crossing more than 1.6 million acres. The new Interstate Highway system facilitated the changing American lifestyle. Finally, the "road trippers" that Arthur envisioned coming out to Richmond back in the 1920s were a reality! Richmond, IL was on the main path to all of the natural vacation wonderlands of 1950s Wisconsin and Minnesota.
With business booming, Raynold, Vi and their young sons keep the shop open until 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays in the summertime and 8 pm on Sundays. With mom and dad busy making candy and helping customers, little Leif and Lars are left to play in the candy shop.
The Northwest Tollway (I-90) and the Tri-State Tollway (I-94) are now fully connected to the city, diverting much of Richmond's summertime and weekend traffic. This causes business to decrease however, the advent of air conditioning INSIDE vehicles helps offset that drop in customers for a time. Customers who had previously only purchased what they could eat on the spot, could now keep chocolate from melting on their way to their destinations causing the average sale to increase. From left: Leif (13), Lars (11), Raynold (44) ,Vi (35).
An unsolicited mention by a panel of international chocolate candy experts on the David Susskind Show refers to Anderson's Candy Shop as, "the best in the country." This is the first of many recognitions for the Richmond shop, including a ranking as one of the 5 best in the America and the Best in the Midwest by the New York Times. It stimulates the need to accept mail orders as a regular part of business. Anderson's now has interest from people who have never visited the shop in person.
While other Chicagoland candy companies which got their start around the same time as Anderson's Candy Shop begin to investigate more modern methods of making and mass producing candy using machinery - Raynold chooses to continue making his candies in small batches by hand. He always keeps up to date with the latest technology and even investigates enrobing machines however he is not satisfied with the results. As his sons, Leif and Lars enter high school, they help in the candy making for the business and for a time all three generations of Anderson men could be found daily in the Richmond shop's Cooking Room. From left: Arthur (74), Raynold (47), Lars (13), Leif (15).
Leif gets lottery number 24 in the Vietnam Draft. He serves with the United States Army in Washington State, Washington D.C., Arizona and California. Among his assignments is work in personnel at the Pentagon. He is discharged in June 1972. Lars attends college at St. Cloud University in MN. With Arthur in his 80, Raynold and Vi are left to run the shop alone.
After the service, Leif sells insurance and attends college at Northern Illinois University. Lars lives in Minnesota pursing a career as an artist and an appliance salesman. Lars welcomes his first son, Adrian Anderson in 1975 and a second son, Colin Anderson, in 1979. In the photo at far right, Lars and his wife Sue, change the diaper their newborn Colin. In the background, Vi plays with grandson Adrian.
Lars returns to the business full time. Lars, Leif, Raynold and Violet run the business as a team through the Mid 1990s.
This is a period of innovation and accolades. Business demanded it. Wisconsin Highway 50 continually improves from the Tri-State to Lake Geneva, WI, taking still more traffic away from Richmond. Lars and Leif know if the family business is to continue, they must find new products to market and new ways to meet customers. More recipes are added to the Anderson's line in this period than in the previous six decades including (from left) Old Tyme Fudge, Molasses Sponge Candy, Marshmallow Eggs, Raspberry Mallow Bars, Lars Bars, Peanut Butter Cream Bars, Caramel Apples and Mini Donuts to name a few.
Anderson's Candy Shop's location in Crystal Lake opens in 1994 on North Williams Street. It moves across the street to a bigger storefront in 1996 (above). However with the death of Raynold's wife, Vi, in 1997 after a long battle with brain cancer; and other major family changes, the Crystal Lake location is closed before the beginning of 1998.
Leif and Lars became convinced that if they can just find a way to get their candy in people's mouths, those people will like it so much that they will become regular customers. In order to meet those new people Anderson's expand mail order service, open a second location in Crystal Lake, IL, begin selling and promoting their products at county fairs and launch AndersonsCandyShop.com.
The Great Recession hits Anderson's hard. To avoid layoffs and having to close the shop, the Anderson family skips paychecks, defers maintenance and doubles down on marketing efforts. The average sale per customer halves and the business looses a majority of their corporate clients - many which simply went out of business. To reduce the load on the shop and to assist his wife's business, Lars left day-to-day leadership at the shop.
Efforts to keep the business alive during the Recession include the creation of a blog and Facebook account for promotion. Susanne and Katie Anderson work part time at the shop to help - selling chocolates at suburban Women's Club boutiques and fundraisers; and hosting wine tastings to help promote the shop.
Susanne joins the business fulltime in 2011. Katie follows in 2012, leaving a career in journalism. The sisters set out to help modernize operations, bolster promotion, renew the website, and expand the business to a second location in Barrington. With travel out to Richmond and the Lake Geneva area at an all time low, and gas prices still high from the Recession, the Andersons believed a location closer to their suburban customers would help business.
Susanne and Katie develop the Give Back Box to raise funds for healthcare for the uninsured. The box has raised more than $30,000 to date for the Family Health Partnership Clinic. hpclinic.org
All five of Leif's children work in the business in some capacity. Helping with mail packages during Christmas time, shoveling snow, and serving up ice cream and mini donuts during the county fair season! Susanne leaves fulltime work at the shop in 2017 but helps regularly for special projects and events.