Antoinette's: Four generations of goodness



kc kratt

Years in Business: 97

Number of locations: 1 (The West Seneca Antoinette’s On the Hill store was built by James Morphis in 1978, but is now under separate ownership.)

Specialty Item: Homemade ice cream and toppings

Best-selling item: Sponge candy

Favorite holiday: Christmas

Company Motto: “Please the customer.”

 

In the days when immigrants came to America with nothing more than a vague plan to seek employment from established friends and family, the seeds of the nearly century-old Antoinette’s Sweets were sown. It was William Morphis who arrived here circa 1910, got a job in a candy shop, opened his first store in 1915 and, in 1934, established Antoinette’s—named for the eldest of his eight children—with winnings from an Irish sweepstakes.

That first store was at Sycamore and Fillmore, and remained there until 1958 when William’s son James bought a farmhouse on Transit Road in Depew, and moved in with this wife and two children. He built the new Antoinette’s on the front of the house where, six additions later, it still stands. “My parents lived here and ran a business in typical European style,” says James’s son and current Antoinette’s co-owner, Peter, who explains that with living quarters attached to the shop, work and home life often merged. “We were always around it. I grew up in it.”
In 1975, Peter went to work in the business alongside his parents. “I’m still deciding if this is what I want to do,” he jokes. Now, the fourth generation—John, Peter’s twenty-three-year-old son and Canisius graduate, came to work full-time nearly two years ago—is trying to decide as well. “There was no pressure,” John says, “but I always liked the work.”

“This craft is no longer widespread but, fortunately, in a family business, it’s not like a teacher who retires and they hire a new teacher; there isn’t the same exit strategy,” points out Peter, who notes that he was able to work with and learn from his parents for decades. “To learn this, you have to be an apprentice to someone; there is no real school of candy-making. I learned it just by being here, and that’s how John is learning,”

Even with hard candy already under his belt, there is much to learn, not the least of which are the three-generations-old recipes for chocolate and the homemade ice cream and toppings Antoinette’s is known for. (“The hot fudge is a big deal,” John says. “And the sponge candy.”)
“We have a lot of customers who remember my parents,” says Peter, noting that his mother and father passed away in 2004 and 2007 respectively. “They miss them, but they are happy we have continued the business. You hate to see a family business just die.”

 

 

Antoinette's Sweets on Urbanspoon

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