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Business Spotlight: Niemann's Candies

July 14, 2014

Even after 95 years, customers still look for their favorite caramels and chocolates in the same spot in the same glass cases they've always been in at Niemann's Candies.

Of course, those vintage cases are displayed four miles west of where they started in 1919, near the old Colonial Theatre, at N. 13th and W. Vliet streets in Milwaukee.

"If there's any 90-plus-year-olds out there, they might remember," joked Jim Niemann, owner and third generation candy-maker.

That initial move isn't the only stop the shop made before settling on Harwood Avenue.

An enlarged post card is all that's left of those early days. But around 1927, back when the Tosa band shell first swelled with music and the street car still turned around at the end of the block, founder Frederick Niemann moved his store to Wauwatosa Avenue.

"There was nothing there," said Jim Niemann, who took over the business, also known as Niemann's Chocolate Shop, in 1986. "And they really started as a jack of all trades. They did candies, ice cream. They had hot dogs and all kinds of roast beef sandwiches, basically, to serve the people who went to the band concerts."

The shop later moved to Underwood Avenue, where gawkers gathered around the window to witness the wonders of Niemann's new automated ice cream machine.

"It wasn't a thing of beauty. But they were proud of it and it was an attraction, so they put it in the window," Niemann said.

It's been 44 years since the store moved to Harwood Avenue, where Niemann and company still make ice cream on-site, albeit at the back of the shop. And it's been 28 years since Niemann bought that shop from his parents, Emily and William Niemann.

Grandfather and father have both since passed. But Niemann said their method of making candy by hand still lives on. And while Niemann still likes to get his hand sticky, making traditional toffees and chocolates by the box, he really enjoys running the business, expanding into specialties like candy molds for the Zoological Society of Milwaukee and selling chocolate-covered cranberries at the Wisconsin State Fair – a bigger challenge than it might seem.

"That's been a huge hit, but it caused a lot of stress," Niemann said. "We had to have thousands and thousands of these things, and we had to retool our shop a bit and figure out how to put cranberries on astick. The first year, we could not keep up with demand. We had everybody in the family working day and night. That's what keeps us going."

JUST THE FACTS

Business: Niemann's Candies, 7475 Harwood Ave.

Website: www.niemannscandies.com

Phone: (414) 774-4940

Owner: Jim Niemann

Incorporated: 1919

Type of business: candy shop

Pearls of wisdom: "We had everybody in the family working day and night. That's what keeps

us going."

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