09 Mar Small Illinois Business Celebrates 110th Anniversary
Arndt’s Fudgery, LLC provides quality products and service for more than a century.
For Immediate Release (Newton, Ill. 03/01/2023) – In 1913, George W. Arndt and his wife purchased a grocery store in downtown Newton, Ill. Within a year, that business transitioned into Arndt’s Variety Story, offering goods for 5, 10 and 25 cents.
George continued to grow the business to include locations in the nearby communities of Greenup and Casey, Ill. In 1947, his son Bill returned from service with the US Navy in WWII and purchased the chain of stores.
Bill’s son Tony, current owner, remembers selling chocolates at Arndt’s for 69 cents per pound as his first job in the 1950s. After his own service in the US Navy, Tony returned to Newton and in 1970 assumed ownership of the business. Together, Tony and Bill further expanded the chain, opening Arndt’s locations in Tuscola, Arthur and Shelbyville, Ill.
With multiple locations, the Newton store served as the warehouse for inventory and products. While the store was located on the street level of the building, the second floor was used to store and stock products. Lois Lewis, who has been an employee of Arndt’s for 45 years, remembers beginning her career in the warehouse.
“I came to a parade in Newton and saw a Help Wanted sign in the window, so I applied,” she said. “At the time, Tony wasn’t sure I could cut it in the warehouse – he said I looked too small.”
He gave Lois a chance and, much like the business itself, her role has evolved over the years. One of the reasons she remains, and possibly a reason for the business’s longevity, is the strong commitment to family. “I have really enjoyed coming to work all these years. They are great people to work for and very family-oriented,” she said.
She credits Tony with continually looking for the next innovation to keep Arndt’s on trend. From selling Hallmark cards and gifts, to decor and even school supplies, Tony continually brought offerings to Arndt’s that struck a chord with the community. One example of that – and probably their best-known product – is Arndt’s fudge.
They began making their own fudge in the mid-1980s, providing a variety of flavors. Customers could select fudge from a candy counter, sampling the day’s varieties to ensure they picked the best option. They continued trying new flavors and currently offer 75 different types of fudge, including sucrose-free and low-carb varieties.
“Our supplier would send fliers with new fudge flavors that we could try and 75 percent of the time, we were already making them,” Lois said.
In the 1990s, Arndt’s began distributing Amish jellies and jams. They traveled between Newton and Arthur, restocking that location and returning to Newton with jar goods from various Amish family businesses on the way.
Eventually the wholesale business for fudge and Amish goods expanded to the point that Arndt’s decided to close the retail frontage of the store. After more than a century of serving local communities, Arndt’s can now reach customers worldwide, sending out hundreds of orders daily with sales on Amazon. Arndt’s offers fudge and Amish candy, as well as BBQ sauce, pie fillings, popcorn and salsa.
According to Lois, the most popular fudge flavors are chocolate and peanut butter. Her personal favorite is vanilla praline. “There’s nothing like caramel and nuts mixed with our creamy fudge,” she said. Over the years, Arndt’s has offered flavors like pina colada, and red velvet. Current flavors include sea salt caramel and cookie dough.
Arndt’s Fudge and Amish products are still available in the region at a handful of businesses. For a complete selection of Arndt’s Fudgery products, visit fudgery.com.