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When Wilson Hardware Co. shuttered last summer after 147 years, the odds were slim the space in downtown Wilson would house another business with a storied legacy.
However, a Sims man is carrying on in his father's footsteps of bringing classic confections as he opens for business today at 116 Nash St.
"I hear people talk about going to the beach once a month to get candy, but with Krueger's Candies, you won't have to," said owner Andrew Krueger. "We use the recipes my father started the company with that keep in line with the old machines we use. Our taffy is four ingredients with no preservatives or fillers and a great taste."
His father, Ron Krueger, started his career in candy at age 14, but that wasn't the late man's first job. Andrew Krueger said his grandfather owned an amusement park in Wildwood, New Jersey, and by age 8, Ron was putting kids on the boardwalk rides. When Ron Krueger was 14, he started selling fudge on the boardwalk and at age 18, the teen bought the fudge company. The family's early work ethic was extended to Andrew after the family - and business - relocated to Largo, Florida.
"When I was 5, I was running the taffy wrapper with an adult on the other side in case of a problem. At 8, I could run both sides and fix any problems on my own," Andrew Krueger said. "When I was in school, I'd ride my bike the five miles and help him out, especially when he had big orders to go out. When we were done, he'd throw my bike in the truck and take me home."
While he enjoyed the family business, the now 46-year-old pursued a career working with automobiles. Meanwhile, the family patriarch opted for retirement in 1998, but he couldn't stay still and started Ron's Candy Equipment a year later. The retiree rebuilt and sold classic candy-making machines for people across the country and when Ron Krueger and his wife Joan relocated to Wilson County in 2008, the repair business moved from a Florida garage to a Sims outbuilding.
"About two-and-a-half years ago, he asked if I would get out of the automotive business and help him," Andrew Krueger recalled. "When I got in there with him, I thought there was no wonder he couldn't keep up on his own because there was so much work. During that time, I got to work with him and know him that much more. It is funny how much alike we were."
In recent years, the father-son duo talked about reopening a sweet shop together. Unfortunately, the elder Krueger got sick on Thanksgiving and passed away in January.
"It is sad that my father and I were going to do this together and he didn't live to see this day come," Andrew Krueger said. "We'll make it through it, though."
Andrew Kreuger started making his father's original recipes earlier this year with his fiancée, Tracy Page, and eldest son, 18-year-old Richard Krueger. The fudge and taffy were popular items for farmers market customers, but the summer heat forced them to refocus their attention on a brick-and-mortar location to manufacture candies with the classic machines for whole and retail orders.
And the former Wilson Hardware shop, which predates the county courthouse across the street, provides the perfect foundation for Krueger's line-up of classic machinery. The mixer is from 1903, the batch roller was built in 1911 and the Rose 350 taffy wrapper machine from 1935 was imported from England.
"All of our machines are old and sometimes we can't get them dated because the companies are still in business, but their records don't go back beyond the '30s," Andrew Kreuger said. "I restored the puller in the window from 1925 and I've got another machine I'm in the process of restoring from the 1930s."
Since this historical significance of the downtown shop was part of the appeal, the updates have been minimal. Some of the cabinets that lined the walls of Wilson Hardware were replaced with sinks and stoves - along with the necessary plumbing and electrical updates - but the floor from 1946 lives on, as do the automatic doors powered by a compressor from 1941 that is in working order. Several of the pieces like signs and newspapers featuring the shop's history also will be integrated with homages to the Krueger confection king, Ron.
"It will be like a working museum," Andrew Kreuger said. "Normally you'd see machines of this age just sitting there and never operating, but we're keeping them going."
In addition to seeing the machines in action, customers at the shop will get to buy the freshest taffy, fudge, cotton candy, caramels and other sweet treats around. While Ron's favorite licorice taffy will be on the menu, the newest generation of Krueger candymakers is eager to experiment and add new flavors and confections. Drinks also will be available for purchase.
"I've always enjoyed seeing people eat a piece of candy and love it," Andrew Krueger said. "I love that, with my sons, we're carrying on my father's work because this was his only real job."
The store is expected to be open during work hours Mondays through Fridays and on Saturday mornings. For more information, follow www.facebook.com/kruegerscandies/ or visit www.kruegerscandies.com/.
Big Business and Local Legacies
Wilson got a new furniture store last Friday when Farmers Home Furniture opened at 1301 Ward Blvd. in the Plaza Shopping Center. The Georgia-based chain has more than 200 locations in six states with the goal of providing low cost home decor without skipping quality and service, according to a release.
"This new location is decorated with the latest styles and trends in the furniture industry, promoting a comfortable and inviting atmosphere to treat you, the customer, to the perfect shopping experience," the release states.
While I'm not in the market for furniture, I will be hitting up several restaurants recently featured on the Great Carolina Fried Chicken Map. Popular places like Bill Ellis Barbecue, Parker's Barbecue and Abrams were obvious highlights on the map, I was surprised to hear about the Whole Truth Lunchroom, which serves dishes out of the Wilson Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith kitchen on Walnut Street.
The map, sold by EDIA Inc., includes info on more than 300 places serving traditional fried chicken through a take-out window or at fine-dining establishments in North Carolina and South Carolina. For more information or to order, head over to www.ediamaps.com/shop/carolina-fried-chicken-map/.
A national trucking company with an office in Wilson recently earned some serious bragging rights.
Sunset Transportation was included on the 2017 Top 100 3PL and Top 10 3PLs to Watch lists by Inbound Logistics, who selected the winners from a pool of more than 300 third-party logistic providers..
"Being named an Inbound Logistics Top 3PL this year is a testament to Sunset's passion for our customers and employees alike," said Mary McCallister, managing director at the Wilson branch. "We are pleased to receive this honor in the name of personalized, familiar service and our family-style culture. Seeing Sunset grow and flourish over the past several years is gratifying in many ways, especially since we have now been recognized as a strong presence among the national 3PL community. Thank you to all who have helped propel us forward."
Got an idea for news to include in next week's Main Street Minute? Don't hesitate to reach out to me at 252-265-7821 or firstname.lastname@example.org.