WEBB CITY, Mo. —
The Minerva Candy Co. is once again poised to become the grand old girl of downtown Webb City.
“We’re getting close; the building is 99 percent done,” Tom Hamsher said last week. He and his wife, Mary, have spent the past year renovating the building at 12 S. Main St. The Webb City couple purchased the abandoned store from Duke Mallos, whose family had owned it since 1921.
The store opened in 1913 and became a regional fixture before it closed about five years ago.
Hamsher said the couple have been true to that original time period throughout their restorations downstairs and upstairs, where urban lofts also are nearing completion.
“The paint is all turn-of-the-century paint, just like it would have looked in about 1913, and almost all of the pressed tin ceiling is original — we just had to have about 40 tiles replaced,” he said of the candy shop.
“We had the original candy equipment shipped out for repair, from motors to paint, and that should be here in two to three weeks.”
The Hamshers have done much of the restoration themselves, hauling out 14 tons of debris. They’ve also repaired the roof and installed new windows, and turned to professionals for air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical upgrades.
Hamsher, who has childhood memories of visiting the candy store, also has been busy placing furniture and equipment purchased from a former downtown Joplin restaurant, Columbia Traders.
On the to-do list: a counter being built to accommodate the Minerva homemade ice cream Mary Hamsher has perfected, as well as the coffee that uses roasted beans that a local man started as his own cottage industry.
The Hamshers plan to outfit the front window of the north side of the store with a grouping of comfortable couches and chairs for use as a hangout spot. The rest of the north side is filled with restaurant tables to accommodate the new Minerva deli sandwich operation.
While the Hamshers are taking pains to re-create the original candy shop, the new version will have two things the former did not: Wi-Fi for use by customers, and a Facebook page on which to announce specials, promotions and events. The latter, which Hamsher started a few weeks ago, already has gained 500 “likes” from people who remember the store from their childhood.
“The Minerva makes the best candy in the world,” posted Sheila West, who added that she can’t wait for the shop to open.
“I used to love helping make the candy canes and the Easter candies. I am so excited that someone was willing to bring back some sweet memories.”
Cheryl Crane Walker recalled taking her children to the candy shop before it closed.
“They loved watching them make candy,” she said.
The shop also unveiled on Facebook its new logo, chosen from 126 logos submitted from around the world. The winner, created by an Illinois designer, features his version of Minerva, based on the Roman goddess as illustrated at the turn of the century when the candy company first opened.
The couple are planning a grand opening in late September.
“By Halloween, we plan to have Christmas candy ready,” Tom Hamsher said. “We’ll focus on hard candy, like sticks, ribbons and candy canes.”
At one time, the company churned out 25,000 candy canes, according to Mallos.
“So many people who have memories, who grew up here, have stopped by or told me they want to work here when it opens,” Hamsher said. “They say they want to be a part of this.
“That’s what makes this place special.”
THE MINERVA CANDY CO. dates to at least 1913. Abstracts show that it changed hands — rumored to have happened in poker games — quite often in its early days, with as many as 25 owners in a decade. The longest running owners of the candy company were the members of the Mallos family. Webb City resident Duke Mallos’ grandfather James, a Greek immigrant, bought out two brothers — one in 1921, one in 1925.