Kandy Kraft Store and the Sugar Plum

According to his August 10, 1961 Auburn Journal obituary, young Keith Douglas, born in 1890 in Minnesota and a member of the Auburn Pioneering family, arrived in Auburn in 1904 where he resided until his move to Elk Grove in 1916* at 26 years old.

Actually, the article said, “They located at Quintette, 12 miles east of Georgetown, during the summer months, then to Auburn for the winter and school seasons.”

“He was remembered in Auburn as a candy maker for Bill Knief who owned and operated the Sugar Plum for many years.” In another article it stated, “After he grew up, he had a candy kitchen in Auburn, and later in Elk Grove, where he lived for many years.”

“The Kandy Kraft in Elk Grove was the favorite meeting place for everyone, from the tiny tots to oldsters. He also served as constable for the Elk Grove Justice Court for 16 years, until illness forced him to retire.”

(NOTE: Both obituaries are printed in full at the very end of the this article.)

His brother Mark Douglas remained in Auburn, but besides him, his two sisters came to Elk Grove; Mrs. Helen Poston and Mrs. Margaret Chamberlin and a third Ruth Cole resided in Deep River, Connecticut.

When Keith Douglas and wife Nellie arrived in Elk Grove in 1916*, he worked for Leland Kimball at the original Kandy Kraft store that was in the downstairs apartment of the ELM on the east side of the building and they made their candy right there. It was called the Candycraft Store. When Mr. Kimball sold out in 1917, Keith and Nellie moved their business across the street to the Poston block of five stores. The Colton Grocery store to the west, then heading east, Steve Yudisak’s Barbershop, Bert Polhemus’ Butcher shop, then the new named store, The Kandy Kraft store, and Warren’s Shoe Store on the end. Keith’s sister Helen was married to Elwood Poston who owned the “Poston Building, which was financed by brother Fred Poston.”

The ELM in 2020

(*NOTE: According to the obituary, Keith Douglas “resided in Auburn until 1916 then he moved to Elk Grove.” This date conflicts with a Lance Armstrong story about a little 5-year-old girl who would take the train to Elk Grove in 1915 to visit the Kandy Kraft.)

In Lance Armstrong’s chapter on the “The Elm” in his 2006 book Echoes of Yesterday: An Inside View of Historic Sites of Elk Grove, Lance writes….

“During its earliest years, besides providing living quarters, the building also drew visitors to its first floor through its businesses, The Candycraft, Cascade Laundry, the barber shop of Daniel A. Savage and a dentist office.”

“The Candycraft, an ice cream parlor and candy store operated by Leland Kimball, moved into the building across main street in 1914.”

“This single-story, wood framed, stucco building known as the Poston Building, was owned by Fred Poston, who was married to Edwin Lawrence Macy’s sister Lillian (Macy) Poston.”

“The building once included Elbert “Bert” Valentines Polhemus East Side Meat Market, Steve Yudisak’s East Side Barber Shop, and Colton’s Grocery, which was owned by Orton Colton.”

“To separate the old locantion from the new, The Candycraft became known as the Kandy Kraft or in some references, The Kandy Kraft Kafe.”

“Elk Grove resident Ouida (Lovdal) Hanks, who once lived north of the I Street bridge in Sacramento, remembers going to the Kandy Kraft as a child, while visiting her grandfather Constable Dell Cann.”

“I was 5 years old in 1915* the first time I went to the Kandy Kraft (in the Poston Building),” Hanks said. “I used to take the train by myself to Elk Grove and the conductor would make sure I got off at the right place to meet my grandfather, who would be waiting for me.”

“One of the first things I would see was the Kandy Kraft. I remember that there was a small table with two small wrought iron and bamboo chairs that were used only for special occasions like birthdays and holidays. Mr. (Keith) Douglas (who operated the business with his wife Nellie) would serve ice cream to the kids at the table and it was a very special experience.”

“Hanks, who moved to Elk Grove with her sister Juanita Lovdal in 1924…..”

Lance mentions this from Jane (Derr ’38) Morse: “When I was born (in 1921), my mother and father’s home (on Kent Street) was not yet vacant, so we lived at the Elms for the first six months of my life.”

“Morse remembers the Kandy Kraft very well, since she lived nearby and frequently visited the very popular local business.”

“The left-hand side of Kandy Kraft was all candy and on the right-hand side were the soda fountains” Morse said. “They also served food and they had great apple pies and roast beef sandwiches.”

They had a soda fountain restaurant, and he made his candy to sell too. For this he had a huge marble slab that he would put the candy on to cool, right after he cooked it, and this room was aside from where they had their soda fountain restaurant and kitchen. So, he would go in there when times were not too busy and do his candy making.

Keith and Nellie retired from the Kandy making business when he took over as the local constable in 1945. He was an Elk Grove Constable for 16 years until his health made him retire. He died in Elk Grove in 1961 at the age of 71. Nellie was well known for her wonderful cooking, which she continued, but we don’t know if it was for businesses or for the family.

There were several owners in the latter years, but not sure of order or have dates. We know in the 1950 Elk Grove High School yearbook, there is an advertisement for the Kandy Kraft Kafe with Mr. & Mrs. Morse as proprietors. It is believed this business lasted until 1955 and then we have no record of the store beyond that year.

(NOTE: The “Mr. & Mrs. Morse” mentioned in the 1950 EGHS yearbook is no relation to anyone from the pioneering Morse Family (Archie, George, Bert, Dave, & Evelyn) family mentioned earlier.)

The above summarized narrative was developed mostly from the obituaries, Lance’s book, and memories of the local Elk Grove citizens, and here are their recollections in full….

Local Residents

Sandy “Samm” (Morse ’71) Haight recalls this family history,

“From both my mother Jane (Derr ’38) Morse and Grandmother Bernice (Gibson) Derr, I was told that the candy store moved from the ELM Hotel/Apartment location on the north side of the street to the Poston Building on the south side of Elk Grove Blvd (Main Street).  In a recent phone call (Jan 2021) with Gerald Derr, he recalls the location of the stores in the Poston Building as follows:  west to east, Colton’s Grocery Store, Steve Yudisack’s Barbershop, Bert Polhemus’ Meat Market, Kandykraft and then Warren’s Shoes (He thought the shoe store was a separate structure).

Dave & Jane (Derr) Morse (both EGHS ’38) were recorded by their daughter Sandy (Morse’71) Haight in 2009. Jane Derr grew up just a few blocks away. Here are Kandy Kraft snippets and minor paraphrasing from that 90-page interview all combined into one paragraph:

“Keith and Nellie Douglas retired from running Kandy Kraft on Elk Grove Boulevard in the 40’s or 50’s. It was before Scott was born in the 1950’s, so I think it was in the 40’s. Mr. Douglas made homemade candy to sell in his Kandy Kraft store. He sold the Kandy Kraft store and then was Constable. He was a cook, a civil servant and was in the Men’s Choir. He was quite a guy, pretty versatile, but the same person. That was two spectrums. His wife Nellie did a great deal of cooking and it was very good. The Kandy Kraft originally was in the downstairs front apartment of the Elm on the east side of the building and they made their candy right there, too and it was run by Mr. Leland Kimball. I am not sure how long that went on, but Mr. Kimball sold out the candy store and Keith and Nellie, started their business across the street in the Poston block of buildings and that’s where Yudisak’s Barber shop, Polhemus’ Butcher shop, and Colton’s Grocery were all in that area. They had a Soda Fountain Restaurant and he made candy to sell too. For this he had a huge marble slab that he would put the candy on to cool, right after he cooked it, and this room was a side from where they had their soda fountain restaurant and kitchen. So, he would go there when times were not too busy and do his candy making.

(A side story: When the Douglas’ were through running that business, he didn’t have any use for the marble slab, so he just set it out behind the store, in the yard, where it sat for several years. One day it happened to be in Colton’s Grocery when my mother (Bernice Gibson Derr) worked there and he said, ‘If you hear of anybody who would like to have the marble slab, I’d be glad to give it to them to get it out of the back there.’ Mom said, ‘That would be nice to set my plants on out in the backyard, I think I could use it.’ So, for 25+ years, the 5’ by 2’ by 3” thick slab set on a small stand in the back yard. I remember lots of beautiful pots of African Violets siting on the slab in her garden. Over the years it began to build up dull finish, pitied and rough and the stand started to sink into the ground.

When our daughter, Sandy Morse was engaged to be married in 1976, her future husband Randy Haight happened to be there one day and he said, “You know that thing, that table that you have your plants on, that’s marble? I think I could make a nice piece of furniture.” So, mom said, “Well, if you could use it, you’re certainly welcome to it.” So, he took it into a place that makes headstones for cemeteries, Ruhkala Monument on Broadway, and they planed it down to a beautiful finish and he made a beautiful piece of furniture out of it. It was on display at their home in Clarksburg and when they moved up to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that marble table is now in the entry way of their home and its beautiful. And that’s the story of the marble slab.)

The Marble Slab at Rann & Samm Haight’s home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – Circa 2020

Gerald Derr (EGHS ’52) adds about the ELM: Kandy Kraft was the name.  No “C”.  Warren’s Shoe Store was a separate building. Keith Douglas made candy and had a soda fountain. They served all manner of great ice cream deserts and meals too. Nell Douglas was not a happy lady and always seemed to be in a cranky mood. Keith was busy in the back of the store and he was seldom seen out front, at least seen by me. The building was called “The Poston Block.” East to west, the other businesses in the building were: Bert Polhemus’s Butcher Shop, Steve Yudicsak’s barber shop, and Colton’s Grocery. To my knowledge, the Kandy Kraft was never located in the Elm. Elm stands for E. L. Macy, who built the building. The only business that I can remember in the ELM building was a dentist, Dr. Donald Ireland, and his office was located on the west end of the building. Alpha Adams, sister of J. M Derr, was married to Macy. She was my Great Aunt. I was at the ELM many times as a little boy; my mother and my Aunt Alpha were good friends. It was always an apartment house. The dentist was the only business that I know of, and I’m 87. The east side of the main floor was living quarters for the owner. The building has a full basement, the west side of which is earth (no concrete). The last owner put in a fire sprinkler system.  It needed that really bad.

Diane (Westlake) Buscher shares this great family tree connection,

I have a lot of information about the history of Elk Grove.  My grandfather was Fred Poston, the man who financed the Poston Block (a stretch of 5 buildings). Keith Douglas’ sister was married to my uncle Elwood Poston. My great uncle, Edwin L Macy (ELM) built the Elm. My parents met at the Kandy Kraft. My grandmother, Lillian Macy Poston, taught at the Rhodes School in 1899.

Oscar Mix (’57)

The Kandy Kraft was across the street between the shoe store and the barber shop. My dad was great friends with Kieth Douglas. I had my first cherry phosphate at the counter there. Kieth and his wife Nellie made candies on a large marble table at the south end of the soda fountain. Kieth became the Constable I believe after Del Cann. Kieth as I remember him had a great resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. Dixie (Egner) Young was in our 1957 HS class and her family owned the Candy Kraft when we were in high school. 

(L to R – Kieth Douglas, Judge Godfrey F. Mix Jr., Bunn Smith, Paul Frame MD)

The picture was from the late thirties if I remember correctly. The town had some sort of beard growing contest going on. I always remember Kieth Douglas with a beard and some say he looked like Abraham Lincoln. 

Dixie (Egner ’57) Young

“About 1952, my parents, Eddie and Viola Enger, bought the Kandy Kraft. I had a sister Joyce (Enger ’54) Frost and a brother Kelly Unger (’66). It was one of two restaurants on the east side of town. The other one was Van’s. Most of our customers were local people who worked in the area. There was a car dealership, drug store, bank, telephone company, barber shop, beauty shop, shoe store, boarding house, cleaners, and the EG Club. My sister and me were teenagers and helped after school and summers. Kids came in for the soda fountain. We served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ewe were open seven days a week, 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. We also had homemade pies, which were very popular. Viola and Eddie were both good cooks. Eddie would put creative signs on the sidewalk to get attention. It was a fun time, and you knew most of the people in town. We sold the Kandy Kraft in about 1955 but remained in Elk Grove. I know live in Wilton.” – Dixie

Don Kammerer (EGHS ’53) shares:

It was east of railroad tracks on Main Street (Now Elk Grove Boulevard) next to Warren Shoes on the south side of Elk Grove Boulevard. It was the next to last store front heading east of what now is parking lot for Dr Elliopus the eye Doctor.  When the weather was nice it had a screen door that slammed shut when you went thru it.  It had green painted wood floors with about 6 or 8 stools with a Soda Jerk. Seems to me there was a display case with sweets in it, maybe 2 or 3 small tables. Their ad in 1953 EGHS ELK says “Kandy Kraft Kafe, Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner & Soda Fountain.”  In the 1950 ELK, says, owners were Mr. & Mrs.  Morse, phone #62. I never ate a meal there only milk shakes or sodas, so can’t tell you anything about the cooking.

Louis Silveira (‘EGHS 1967):

“Looking through the Elk Grove High School yearbooks 1912-1960, we found the first Kandy Kraft ad appeared first in the 1917 yearbook. Also, in 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 30, but after that for many years, the yearbooks didn’t have any ads. In 1950 was the first Kandy Kraft Kafe ad with Mr. & Mrs. Morse as proprietors through 1953 and then no other ads about the business of any type after that. This doesn’t guarantee any dates about the business, but we understand that the Kandy Kraft store probably started around 1917 and then maybe changed names and became more of a café around 1950 and seems to lasted at least five years. (?)”

Pat (Walker) Peterson (EGHS ’59)

“I don’t know about the original but the Candy Craft I knew was next to Warrens shoe Store. It was still a soda fountain in 1955.”

Wayne Gallup (EGHS ’52) remembers

The Kandy Kraft Kafe was, in my memory, a shining example of Elk Grove’s Golden Age. It was a wonderful ice cream parlor and candy story on the south side of Main Street.  There was a striped awning, the long counter along the west wall was grey marble, with seats.  There were little Bistro-style tables and chairs with twisted-wire legs, and the floor was dark, oiled wood. Large jars were filled with candy of every description. It was an oasis of luxury and indulgence.

I was a country kid from Wilton. My parents had survived the Depression, and allowances were unheard of. Kids worked for every dime they had, and great thought went into parting with our money for the luxury of an ice cream soda, much less a legendary Banana Split.

Side story: Around 1951 I was enjoying a soda when a kid I didn’t know walked over.  “Are you (so-and-so)?”

“No, why?”

“I think you’re him, and you’ve been messing with my girlfriend, and I’m going to kick your ass.  Step outside”

I got up slowly in my best John Wayne impersonation and said, “I told you I’m not (so-and-so).  If you think you can kick my ass, get started.” He noticed that I was taller than he was, stepped back and said, “Maybe you aren’t him” and scurried out.

In High School, in some circles, my nickname was “The Undertaker” probably because I didn’t smile much.

Both Obituaries from Auburn sources:

Sugar Plum Store

Auburn, California

In the research to learn the early history of Keith Douglas we contacted Kelsey Monahan a researcher in the Placer County Archives for any information they may have on Mr. Douglas in Auburn. In an obituary it stated, “After he grew up he had a candy kitchen in Auburn, and later in Elk Grove,” which alludes to the idea that he might have owned the Sugar Plum, and the reason we inquired in the first place. We already had the above information on Mr.Douglas and she couldn’t add any more to it, but she did have information on the Sugar Plum Store where he worked.

“I don’t believe that Keith Douglas owned the Sugar Plum, it looks like he may have just worked there until moving to “Oak Park” in 1917. (Note: We wonder if the newspaper mistakenly meant Elk Grove or maybe he planned to move to Oak Park and then changed his mind to Elk Grove?) According to news articles William Knief did not sell the Sugar Plum until 1920, to an R.B. Hawkins. The modern address where the store was is 830 Lincoln Way in Auburn.” – Kelsey Monahan

The Sugar Plum was located at 830 Lincoln Way in Auburn, California

“The 1912 Sanborn Fire insurance map shows the Sugar Plum, labeled confectionary store (darkened area), in the Hink Block of Railroad Street, later Railroad Street became Lincoln Way.” – Kelsey Monahan
Modern day 2021 location
Closer view in 2021

Newspaper articles give a timeline of the history of the Sugar Plum:

Placer Herald, February 10, 1917 – Keith Douglas who has been with W. F. Knief at the Sugar Plum for a number of years, will leave March 1st for Oak Park, where he will go into business for himself.

Auburn Journal, February 15, 1917 – Keith Douglas, who for a long time has been employed at the Sugar Plum, will leave the first of March for Oak Park where he will go into business for himself. Keith will be missed by many friends here. We join with his friends in wishing prosperity in his new business adventure.

Auburn Journal, March 8, 1928 – C. J. ELLIOTT BUYS THE SUGAR PLUM, HAWKINS SELLS INTERESTS TO WELL KNOWN LOCAL MAN

Charles Elliott, well known Auburn man has purchased the Sugar Plum, one of the finest and best advertised Candy and Ice Cream stores in Northern California. The Ice cream and soda business will not be new to Nr. Elliott as he formerly managed one of the largest Soda and Ice cream parlors in Oakland.

He was assisted by Mrs. Elliott who is an excellent cook. Mrs. Elliott will have charge of the light luncheons which will be served from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm each day.

Toasted sandwiches will be served at all hours.

The new proprietors will carry an exclusive line of Burdge Candies from San Francisco. Fresh shipments will be received daily.

Only the finest grades of ice cream and soda syrup will be carried.

The interior of the Sugar Plum has been thoroughly cleaned and many improvements were added to the interior of the store before the new owners opened for business on Tuesday morning.

R. B. Hawkins, former proprietor of the Sugar plum has moved to Sacramento where he will make his future home.

Undated photo and unknown employees

Auburn Journal, December 30, 1920 – SUGAR PLUM WILL CHANGE HANDS, PRESENT OWNER WILL RANCH WITH BROTHER NEAR NAPA

It is announced today that the Sugar Plum will change hands on the first of January, when Ted Hawkins takes over the business now controlled and owned by W. F. Knief. It is understood that Knief will go into the ranching business with his brother, H. G. Knief. They recently purchased a ranch which is said to be one of the finest in Brown’s Valley, near Napa. 

Knief has been in the confectionary business in Auburn since 1895. At that time, he, together with A. B. Fleming, now county clerk, operated a store in lower Auburn. The firm was known as Knief & Fleming. Then Knief moved uptown, where he ran two stores – the present Sugar Plum and one that occupied the present site of the Klump leather shop. The latter store burned down and Knief devoted all his attention to the Sugar Plum, which has been operating since 1909. He has steadily built up the business until he now has one of the finest confectionary stores in Placer County.

Hawkins came here some years ago, and for the past year has been working for Knief. He no doubt will give as a good a service and quality as his predecessor.    

Placer Herald, September 14, 1929 – W. F. Knief of Napa and Auburn, and Mae F. Stevens of San Francisco were married in Oakland last Tuesday. The happy couple came direct to Auburn on their honeymoon, spending a couple of days here, and then went to Lake Tahoe Thursday afternoon.

Will Knief operated a candy store in Auburn for a number of years, first downtown, and later uptown. The Sugar Plum is still his property. He was born in Napa county, and since leaving Auburn he returned to Napa, and now owns and runs one of the largest and best equipped candy stores in the interior. Will Knief is a splendid, good fellow, highly respected as a businessman, and well-liked by all who knew him.

His bride is a lady of accomplishment and pleasing personality. The two have known each other for twenty years.

The Herald joins their host of friends in wishing many years of happiness in their new relationship.

Placer Herald, July 15, 1954 – Bankruptcy papers have been filed by Earl DeVore, former operator of the Sugar Plum Café on Lincoln Way. DeVore closed the store two weeks ago, posting a sign on the door, “I’m tired!” First creditors meeting in the bankruptcy case will be held July 22 in Sacramento.”