The year is 1932. Henry Ford just introduced his last great personal engineering triumph: his “en block”, or one piece, V-8 engine. Our U.S. Olympic gymnastic team members, George Gulack and William Denton, won the gold and silver medals in the still ring competition at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Back at home, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Joseph A. Beerntsen founded Beerntsen’s Candies and established a tradition that lives on today.
Beerntsen’s is now a third generation business in scenic, historic downtown Manitowoc. Through Joseph Beerntsen’s dream, determination, and his family’s backing, came the birth of Beerntsen’s Candies and many family traditions, which are still being used today to conduct business in the grand Beerntsen style. Prior to moving to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in 1932 Joe Beerntsen had been involved in candy making in Green Bay, Chicago, and Milwaukee. He served a four-year apprenticeship with the Brenner Candy Company in Green Bay from 1905-1909, and then moved to Chicago. In Chicago, he worked with the Brach and Bunte candy companies prior to buying his own store, called “The Sweet Shop.” In 1922 he moved to Milwaukee and opened “Joe Beerntsen’s Candies.” Five years later in 1927, he went on to become the first manager at the Boston Store’s candy department in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In 1932, Joe Beerntsen settled in Manitowoc and opened “Beerntsen’s Candies” at its present location. He operated the store until his retirement in 1958, when he sold the store to his son Richard, (Dick) Beerntsen. Richard and his wife, Ione, operated the store until late 1983, when their son, Tom, returned to Manitowoc to continue the Beerntsen candy tradition with his wife Penny.
Traditions are very important. They are responsible for keeping our families identities and national traditions alive in the younger generations of today. But there is a lot to say about familiar atmospheres too! What am I talking about? If you are not too young, you can think back and remember soda fountains in drug stores, penny candy, and hand made ice cream. Can you remember the fun and excitement you had in those places and with those things? Beerntsen’s is dedicated to keeping those traditions alive! Today, when you walk into our Manitowoc store the familiar old-fashioned American ice cream parlor atmosphere is still present. Maybe it has something to do with the original black walnut booths, candy cases, and entry area arches of yesteryear, as well as the old, traditional way of conducting a candy and ice cream business that allows this piece of nostalgia to remain. It is a refreshing step back into time for old and young alike when you visit Beerntsen’s.
In June of 1984, a second Beerntsen’s store was opened in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. The Cedarburg store is managed by Diane Beerntsen Roidt, Tom’s sister. The Cedarburg store handles nearly all the candy items available in our Manitowoc location but does not serve or sell ice cream.
As of July 2003, new owners Dean and Chrissy Schadrie are on board. Dean grew up making chocolates in another family business setting, Pine River Pre-Pack, Inc of Newton, Wisconsin. The invitation to purchase Beerntsen’s was a dream come true for Dean. “I understand the dedication it takes to continue a successful family business and realized this was the opportunity of a lifetime,” he says. Asked if he has changes planned, he pauses and comments, “Well, we’re getting a new awning, but it is exactly like the old one.”
Today, Beerntsen’s (Manitowoc Store) supplies chocolates to the prestigious American Club (for use in their gift shop), and selected items to Woodlake Market, both in the city of Kohler, Wisconsin. We also produce custom corporate chocolate gift items and molded novelty items for numerous companies nation wide. These custom made items have become popular personalized items for corporations at gift giving occasions and seasons. Beerntsen’s is now expanding our reach to the world and more importantly, you, through the use of the Internet!
We truly enjoy making the Manitowoc area a little bit sweeter and hope our efforts to reach people via the Internet will have the same effect globally.