Saturday, May 31, 2014

Trees - Shaping Us and Saying Goodbye

EDITORS NOTE: This summer, we will say good bye to an old friend. The giant Norway Spruce that has been an important part of the landscape of Richmond and our candy shop, since 1926. The tree is dying. And although it pains us tremendously, we have been advised by several arborists that the best thing to do is to take it down. The following is a eulogy of sorts written by my father - third generation candymaker Leif Anderson. I hope you can take a few minutes to read his story. And please, come help us give the old Spruce a grand send off on June 28 at our Customer Appreciation and Good-bye Tree Party. Details here:

Humans have been shaping the world around them for eons – clearing forests, rerouting streams, building cities – but every once in a while we are reminded of how the world shapes us.

Our customers, friends, and family, here at Anderson's Candy Shop are probably unaware of how two trees quite literally shaped our store on Route 12 in Richmond.

When my grandpa Arthur Anderson moved his shop from Armitage Ave. in Chicago out to Main St. (there was no U.S. Rt. 12 then) and bought the property our shop sits on today, it was a pretty barren piece of land -- a pasture with a big old farmhouse.

In that time, before air conditioning of course, he planted a maple tree on the southeast side of the farmhouse and a Norway spruce on the northeast side.

My then 7-year-old father, Raynold, helped plant those trees.

The trees and the family grew. Arthur watched his son marry, fight in World War II and have children of his own.

He also watched the trees grown strong and tall, providing cool shade in the morning and early afternoon. The trees provided something else, too, that I'm not sure Grandpa planned on.

The trees became inseparable from the building and the familiar image of the business.

The maple became a large, dense, splash of green that greeted all of the northbound travelers as they came up the hill from Illinois in the summertime headed towards Lake Geneva and other Wisconsin destinations.

In the fall, it became a riot of red and orange providing a beautiful colored canopy to sit under and enjoy as the tourists traveled home.

And for two young boys – Leif and Lars (my brother) – the maple was a childhood friend. We grew up playing hide and seek around it using its large trunk to conceal our then tiny frames.

The spruce - the silent partner in the arboreal couple - became dearer to me as I grew.

It has been included in every picture of the shop we have had commissioned or that has been bestowed upon us. It has also been in the picture on all of our chocolate boxes since the 1970's.

The tallest thing in town outside of the water tower, the spruce has always provided the primary shade for our office upstairs - an area I spent more time in as my mother and father transitioned out and my brother and I came further into running the business.

The spruce's branches and the dozens of birds and squirrels who inhabit them, have also been there for me and my wife to gaze out upon during hard times when we didn't know if we'd make it another year and for happier moments, too.

When my brother and I decided to expand our Richmond shop in the year 2000 and had to have the maple tree removed to make way for our growing families and business expansion, the spruce took on a more prominent role.

The bench that once gave customers a shady place to rest under the maple tree moved to the other side of our building and now sits under the giant gently sloping branches of the spruce.

It is an almost Hobbit-like space providing a cozy privacy in plain sight in contrast to the “showcase” seating under the maple tree.

For the past 15 years now I have enjoyed the new respite spot - sumptuous and serene.

While both trees have been important supporting roles in my personal story, they have also literally shaped the way our shop looks today.

When my grandfather Arthur Anderson put on the first showroom edition to his candy-shop-farmhouse circa 1930 the sides of the front of the building were angled 45 degrees to accommodate anticipated growth of the then-baby trees.

Shade, he decided, was more important than squaring off the corners of the building.

I can imagine him - standing outside. There was no architect involved. It was just a shop owner and a carpenter standing in front and talking about how to add enough space at a reasonable price.

I wonder if he knew then he was creating the angles that our customers have told us for years are “cute” and add “personality” for the shop.

And so it was then, in 1930, when Arthur made the call to leave the trees and build around them, that the shop, the trees and our family became business partners.

Unfortunately later this summer, this blog will be all that is left of this partnership.

The spruce is dying.

Its species has a normal age span of about 60 years and it has already given us 25 years beyond that.

And after consultation with two arborists, we have come to accept that the inevitable time is at hand and we must say our last goodbyes.

Although we are heartbroken, we are also thankful to have the time to give our stalwart friend a fitting farewell and plan to do that officially on Saturday, June 28 with a Good-bye Tree Event.

And we would love your help.

We plan to take a group picture in front of the spruce tree at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 28.

Anyone who has been a friend or neighbor to the shop is invited as are all of our current and past employees and their families.

Our customers and fans are also invited (don't worry we will use a wide lens!) Especially if you are a member of one of our families of customers who have been stopping by the shop for multiple generations.

And if you can't come to the party on the 28th, please come and take your picture with the tree anytime.

My goal is to help the Spruce to create one more indelibly good memory for all of us before he goes.

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 If you have any stories or photos to share of the shop, the building, the family, the tree or our chocolates, please share them with us at or on our Facebook page!