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Cheviot's Fawn Candy Co. traces tasty lineage to 100-year-old box of candy and start of World War I

A story of love and family over four generations
Cheviot's Fawn Candy Co. traces tasty lineage to 100-year-old box of candy and start of World War I
Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-16 06:00:34-04

CHEVIOT -- Just inside the front door and to the right, in a simple glass case on a small shelf, sits an open box of candy.

In a store filled with containers of all kinds of goodies, its honored place is a reminder that love, service to country, family -- and, of course, candy -- made the Fawn Candy Co. in Cheviot what it is today.

Soon, the box and the candy seen within will be 100 years old.

The front of the store at Fawn Candy Co. on Harrison Avenue in Cheviot.

It is present day on the West Side. Janie Oka is head candymaker at Fawn and, as you might guess, the week leading up to Easter Sunday was a big one. She and about a dozen other workers -- most related to her, some not -- are working like crazy at the main store on Harrison Avenue.

The Fawn Candy Co. has been around since 1946, when Paul "Pep" Guenther came back from his service in the Navy in World War II. His mother had let him quit high school to join the service. Upon his return, and with no real prospects otherwise, he decided to learn the confectionery trade from a candy maker in Northern Kentucky. He soon found a candy shop for sale, bought it with a certain someone's help and picked the name Fawn "out of a hat," Oka says. The rest is still unfolding.

Paul "Pep" Guenther

OK, you say, but what about the old box of candy?

Janie Oka has a twin sister. They are two of seven children born to Paul and Jean Guenther. Their mother's maiden name was Maroules. Her father was Fred Maroules, and thus begins the story of the box.

Fred was born in 1894.

Fred Maroules

"He started as one of the head candymakers down at Mabley & Carew," said Oka, referring to a long-gone department store in downtown Cincinnati. "They had a candy kitchen and he was down there with Mr. Aglamesis," of the Aglamesis Brothers ice cream and candy shop. "At that time, the department stores all had a candy department, and he started making candy down there."

When he was 23, the United States was drawn into World War I, and Fred Maroules was drafted into the Army.

On his draft registration card, where it asks for a profession or trade, he wrote the words "candy man."

The World War I draft registration card of Fred Maroules. (Photo provided by familysearch.org)

Around that same time, he made the candy that went into a box that bears its dedication to Helen that sits against a wall of the Fawn Candy Co. And when he returned from war -- where he had earned commendations that were later given to a Greek Orthodox church -- he opened Maroules Confectionary in Newport, Kentucky, selling candy and ice cream.

"That all kind of dissipated when the Depression came in," Oka said. "He just didn't make candy anymore after that."

Fred died in 1938.

Beyond that, there is little to bind Fred Maroules to the son-in-law he would never meet, Paul Guenther, in candy terms. Except for Helen, Paul's widowed mother-in-law, who had that box -- and necessity.

"That's the really weird thing about it, that there's no connection," Oka said. "He died way before my father met my mother. The only candy connection was when Fred Maroules died, my grandmother, Helen, had four children to support, so she ended up going into the soft-serve and syrup business. She would sell to candy shops and to ice cream shops.

"That's how she came upon the Fawn Fountain that was for sale, and she helped my parents buy it, and that's how my dad got involved in the candy business. That's really the only connection."

One's eye is drawn to a particular piece of candy in the old box with an American flag fashioned on it. The dedication date on the box lid is the very day -- Sept. 19, 1917 -- that Fred Maroules was shipped off to boot camp.

"It's like a sugar candy, so that it could last," Oka said. "He made it so that he knew she was going to keep it forever, pretty much, before he went off to the war."

According to an Ohio registry of World War I veterans, Fred Maroules served on an ammunition train through France that was part of what became some of the biggest battles of the war -- Champagne-Marne, Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne.

The synopsis of Fred Maroules' service in World War I. (Provided by the Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-1918)

His candymaking progeny is now in its fourth generation. It consists of Janie; twin sister Jean; two other sisters, Kathy and Jackie, and some of their children. They've had other locations through the years. Today, there's a second store in Norwood at the Rookwood Commons.

They moved to their Harrison Avenue site in 1970, which is when the box went on display. It got its glass-case treatment about 30 years ago, Oka said. And it will be there much longer, it would seem.

"It's the bond of family working together and the tradition of doing it," Oka said. "We were truly blessed to be able to work with my parents until they passed away. We worked together every day. Not everybody gets to do that. And then with my sisters. I love that.

"That's what keeps bringing me back. I'm a licensed realtor and I keep going away from that, because (then) I'm working with people I don't know. I really like this because I'm back with my employees that we've had for 20 years, and my sisters."