Freese's Candy Shoppe sweetens West Allis
"Chocolate is good for you," says Wendy Matel, co-owner of Freese's Candy Shoppe, 7312 W. Greenfield Ave., in historic downtown West Allis.
Freese's has been family owned and operated, with the same recipes being passed down, for three generations. Otto Freese opened the store in 1928 with a soda fountain just down the street from its current location.
Matel says chocolate is "an affordable luxury," which is clearly supported by the state of her business, not to mention the pounds upon pounds of delectable chocolates piled up attractively in the rows of trays in her store.
Wendy's business partner and husband Mike makes all the candy "insides" like caramel and English butter toffee. All of these are made from scratch in the store, and don't come from some big barrel that's shipped to them. According to Wendy, this sometimes surprises people.
Wendy worked at Freese's for many years before buying the store in 1995. She and Mike have business degrees from UW-Milwaukee. They always wanted to own a business, and with Wendy's experience, buying Freese's when the last owner retired was a no-brainer.
Mike learned to make all that interior candy goodness only after they purchased the family business. With three kids, one in high school, two in grade school, it seems that the on-site hand-dipping of chocolates will continue.
The shop contains chocolates, chocolates galore. So many, that it's hard to know where to start listing them. The fairy food is plentiful at Freese's and made throughout the year. The honeycombed chocolate treasures have always been a favorite among customers.
Creams are also among the most popular candies. Each one is delineated by a letter on top, written in rich chocolate, that corresponds with the kind of cream. For example, the butter cream has a "B" on top, the lemon cream an "L," and so on. In addition to these, Freese's usually has raspberry, vanilla and maple walnut creams.
Turtles and English Butter toffee round out the top sellers. Chocolate assortments come in various sizes. $16.95 will get you a fancy one-pound box and the five-pound box sells for just under $80.
Some of the other mouth-watering items at Freese's include peanut butter cups (both white chocolate and brown chocolate), almond clusters, ting-a-ling, chocolate covered prunes, raisin clusters, peanut butter crisp and cordial cherries.
A half-pound of carefully crafted truffles sells for $12.
Not everything sold at Freese's is made there, such as a few of the items on top of those cases filled with creamy, chocolate goodness. This includes nicely packaged bags of orange slices, which seem to be a perennial favorite of grandparents from all generations.
There is a large selection of sugar-free chocolates at Freese's. At $19 a pound, these treats are an excellent option for people with special dietary needs or for those who just want to introduce their sweet tooths to a different kind of delight.
"We sell a surprising amount of the sugar-free, more than I would have thought when I started working here," says Katie Kosiboski, who has been at Freese's just over a year.
"I love working here, because everybody is always happy when they come in," says Kosiboski.
The Matels also own Heavenly Roasted Nuts, which has four "nut huts" in Miller Park, four others at the Wisconsin State Fair and one in the Bradley Center. The nuts are roasted right in the huts.
Together, Freese's and Heavenly Roasted Nuts employ 15 people, some seasonally. Business is good when you make something nearly everyone wants. Wendy says they are doing well and she loves interacting with customers, some of whom have been coming to Freese's for decades.
"It's impossible to be in a bad mood when you buy candy," she says.
But not everything at a neighborhood business can be as sweet as butter cream. The chocolates are so popular that some people actually get mad when their favorites are gone.
"We can only make so much, I try my best to make enough," says Wendy.
With tray after tray of chocolates on display, it's hard, and sad, to imagine them all being sold. Seasonal items are extra popular. At Easter, 15,000 whipped cream eggs are made at Freese's. And they will take custom orders, useful for those who fear what might happen if their sweet tooth remains insatiated, and also for special occasions.
Customers can call ahead, fax or email orders to the store, which is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Freese's is closed Sunday and Monday.
Freese's has the best milk chocolate pecan turtles in the world!!!
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