Nancy Keith Candies

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Nancy Keith Candies

Lela (Brown) Mueller and her sister, Bess (Brown) Recoschewitz, needed a way to support their families.  Lela’s husband, Louis Mueller, had been hit by a streetcar and sustained a brain injury. As a result he would have seizures and wasn’t able to work. They took in boarders which helped bring in some money, but it wasn’t enough. Bess’ husband, Julius Recoschewitz, was a musician and played in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but it wasn’t enough to cover their living expenses. The sisters decided to open a Tea Room near the downtown area. They found a place which had equipment – chairs, tables, etc. They didn’t know why the previous owner left it all, but it was exactly what they were looking for. They were given keys to the place and so they went in and cleaned everything so that it would be ready for business when the deal was consumated. On the day of closing they went to the store to look over the place and make sure everything was in order, but were shocked to find that the place had been emptied of all the furniture and equipment. Since they hadn’t signed any papers they were able to get out of the deal.

Bess enjoyed cooking and one of her specialties was candy. Lela and Bess decided to make candy for Christmas. Their brother, Claude Brown, told them to make as much candy as possible and he would buy anything left over to give to his friends. He also told people they could order the candy. All of the candy sold and Lela and Bess didn’t have any left for themselves. And so Nancy Keith Candies was born. Originally the name of the business was Nancy Lee Candies but it was changed to Nancy Keith Candies using their mother’s maiden name.

Most of the time the candy was made in the basement at Lela’s home, although sometimes Bess would make the fondant at her house, jump on the streetcar and bring it to Lela’s home to flavor, mold and dip. Otherwise the cooking of the fondant was done on the first floor and then carried up to the third floor to flavor, mold, dip and pack. Orders started coming in so Claude gave Lela and Bess money to fix up the basement. They cleaned and painted it and put in two doors so the heat of cooking wouldn’t interfere with the dipping. Claude also bought them a candy-cooking stove and a marble slab which was used to pour the fondant on. After the fondant cooled to the proper temperature they would work the batch (spade) to the point where it could be flavored and then molded into balls ready to be dipped in chocolate.

The business took off and while they continued to make the candy at Lela’s home, they opened a store at 1123 Argyle in Chicago. As the business grew they moved it to 1021 Argyle and finally to 5240 Sheridan Road. Various family members worked in the business and it thrived. Bess died in 1950 and her daughter, Dorothy (Brown) Recoschewitz, and Lela (at this time she was 72 years old) continued running the business. In about 1953 Lela and Dorothy decided to close the store.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Nancy Keith Candies | Letters & Diary Entries From the 1920s

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