Just think of it! Three of San Antonio’s major candy factories were once located right here in our neighborhood, all within a few blocks of each other.
Duerler Candy Factory, 114 Camp Street at S. Flores
In 1849, John Jacob Duerler and his family emigrated from Switzerland. Their son Gustav attended local schools and apprenticed in the printing trade until the Civil War interrupted his career. After his Confederate service, he started a candy factory in the rear of his small house in La Villita. By 1926, his growing business allowed him to build a six story building on Camp Street to house his candy manufacturing and pecan shelling company. The business remained in the family until 1937 when the factory building was taken over by aerial mapping pioneers, Tobin Surveys, Inc.
In 2001, the late San Antonio art patron, artist and philanthropist, Linda Pace, bought the building and turned it into urban living spaces, which spurred further development along S. Flores Street. Included in the complex is a beautiful urban park across the street, CHRISpark, which honors the life of Linda Pace’s son, Christopher.
Judson Candy Company, 831 S. Flores Street
Above the front door of the Judson Candy Company building is inscribed, “1899 – JENNER MFG. CO. – 1912.”
Candy maker E. J. Jenner started his company in 1899, producing peanut brittle, hard stick candy and five-cent fudge bars. When J. W. Judson bought into the business in 1910, he added jelly and crème filled hard candies, fruit drops, orange slices and jelly beans to the company’s inventory. A relentless experimenter, Judson stumbled upon what would become a bestseller when he created the first “sour” while attempting to tart up the Judson jelly bean.
Judson’s four sons acquired full ownership of the company in 1941, and in 1945, they changed the name to Judson Candy Company. It continued to be operated by Judson family members, and, for many years, was a destination for countless field trips where San Antonio school kids were given a tour of the factory and free candy samples. Jeff Judson fondly remembers when his father George brought samples home for him to try out. “It was the closest thing we had to Willy Wonka in San Antonio,” he said.
At its peak, the company made 100 different candies and employed 125 people. In 1983, the 84-year-old company closed its doors and was later bought by Atkinson Candy Co. The factory building was eventually redeveloped as trendy condos.
Joykist Candy Company, 641 S. Flores Street
Joykist Candy Company was started by Eugene Lewenthal in the early 1930s. In 1936, his nephew, Sam Nelson, dropped out of St. Mary’s University to assist his Uncle Eugene and Aunt Anna Lewenthal in their small but growing candy business. Lewenthal’s candy factory occupied three small historic buildings on E. Nueva Street between S. Alamo and Presa Streets, just south of La Villita.
In 1942, Nelson was drafted into the army, but returned to San Antonio after the war and resumed working at Joykist. When the city decided to enlarge La Villita in the mid-1960s as part of the Urban Renewal Project, the buildings fronting on Nueva Street were bought by the city, the Joykist buildings among them. Nueva Street then became the new southern boundary of the expanded La Villita complex.
Having been displaced after nearly 35 years in their old location, Joykist moved its operation to 641 S. Flores. After Nelson’s uncle and aunt passed away, he became president of the company that would eventually become one of the largest wholesale distributors to convenience and grocery stores in South Texas. In the 1970s, Ricos Products Company, the famous nacho cheese concessionaire, took over the building.
After serving as a home to the food industry for several decades, the Joykist building was recently purchased by HEB, where they plan to operate their school of culinary arts and also house their expanded test kitchens.
- Bill Cogburn
Source: John Tedesco, San Antonio E-N; SAPL Texana Room; Fred Mosbach, Old Timers Recall La Villita.