Knickerbocker's Ice cream and Candy Co was a family run candy business in Paterson, NJ. The made all kinds of confections including chocolates and clear toy candy.
Herman Hegeler bought the business in 1938. It had been a grocery store prior, and was called "Knickerbocker's". It was located at 38 Main St. Paterson, NJ. After Hegeler purchased the business he kept the "Knickerbocker's" name, but added "Ice Cream and Candy Co". The building had 3 floors and they rented out the apartments on the upper levels. In the shop there was a soda fountain on one side and glass candy displays along the other side. There were tables and a jukebox in the back. Hegeler used to deliver Dixie cup ice cream to the nearby elementary school.
Herman Hegeler’s family came from Bremen, Germany, where his father was a confectioner. His wife Gertrude Engelhaupt Hegeler, family came from Frankfurt, Germany. They both worked in the store and had one child. They were known to customers as Mr. and Mrs. Knickerbocker. They received many letters from serviceman in WWII who said they couldn't wait to get home to have an egg cream or candy from Knickerbocker's. All of the policemen walking the beat on Main St. would stop in for hot coffee or cocoa in winter or perhaps a soda in the summer. Mr. Hegeler was enthralled with technology, and his store was the first in the local area to have air-conditioning, a pay phone, and a television.
It was very much a family business with their daughter and her husband and even their grandchildren helping out. They would help by wiping tables and washing off the candy counter. Kids from the neighborhood would come in to buy "penny candy" and would put their fingers on the cases to point out what they wanted. Other jobs included weighing the candy and put it in paper bags. They sold lots of different sweets by the pound: chunks of chocolate, all kinds of nougat, and old fashioned candy, some with nuts or raisins. They also sold hard candy, drops, peppermints. The horehound drops were very popular. In the winter they sold candy canes. For Easter, people from several states would pre-order custom chocolate Easter bunnies hand-decorated by Mr. Hegeler. He would write names in script with white icing on bunnies, big chocolate eggs, wagons, or chicks.
The shop also produced clear toy candy, and had a nice collection of molds. They made everything from trains to busts of "Teddy" Roosevelt.
The candy was made on the premises in the "workshop" up stairs. There were several giant pots for making candy, and the molds were all lined up on shelves and on all the walls. They always prayed for low humidity "candy making weather" because the candy shop section was not air-conditioned. There was a huge marble table for making hard candy canes, ribbon candy and other candies. There was a big hook on the wall and Herman would put a hunk of molten candy on the hook and pull in like taffy until it shined. Then he would add flavor like peppermint and red color to one half, and sometimes green to the other. Then he would twist it into custom shapes or candy canes, and cut it with a hatchet before it cooled too much to work with. He wore a white coat like a Dr.
Knickerbocker's closed in 1971 when the state of NJ executed an eminent domain suit and bought the building and all of the "lower Main St" buildings. This was done to clear the area and put Route 80 through. As it turned out, the interstate was routed a different way and the block became another overgrown littered eyesore in the dying downtown area of Paterson, NJ.
Till the day the state forced the business to close, the blackout curtains from WWII were still there, and they would pull them down after closing for privacy to clean up. There were 2 window display areas on either side of the front door and a canopy over the front entrance that was rolled up every night. They were open 7 days a week from 9 AM until Midnight until 1968.
Gertrude Engelhaupt Hegeler, standing on left and Herman Hegeler sitting.
The two on the right were waitresses. Photo curtsy Rene McCullers.