Willoughby: Julius Berg’s Confectionary and Ice Cream Parlor — popularity of sweets
Legends & Legacies
My father first visited Aspen in 1915, when he and his father traveled from Hotchkiss to see the Little Annie Mine. Then 8 years old, he compared his relatively calm hometown to Aspen’s big-city life: two silent movie theaters, topped off with the delights of Julius Berg’s Confectionery Store and Ice Cream Parlor.
Berg’s, Aspen’s oldest continuous business at the time, had occupied 419 E. Hyman Ave. for 35 years. How many stores can you name that have lasted since that long ago, 1984?
Berg had come to Aspen in 1880, near the time of the town’s beginning. Back then, founders operated small mines directly, and not much ore had been shipped yet. It may seem odd to open a candy store in a fledgling mining town that would soon demand a range of retail outlets. But miners indulged in quality food, alcohol and tobacco, and many a sweet tooth called for treats. And a few years later, Aspen functioned as a family town.
Berg’s carried chocolates from Whitman’s, and W.F. Schrafft & Sons of Charlestown, Massachusetts. At one time, Schrafft’s, which opened in 1861, ranked as the largest candy factory in the world. The company’s 1,600 employees produced chocolates, gumdrops and candy canes.
For miners who craved more than chocolate, Berg sold cigars, fresh fruits and nuts. For years he featured the Gath Havana, “the best 5 cent cigar.” In 1886 he expanded and opened an ice cream operation that turned out fresh frozen treats daily.
In addition to his retail store, Berg dabbled in mining claims, as did many local merchants. He invested in several mines that surrounded the Little Annie Mine in the Highland Mining District. On some of those claims, Berg partnered with B. Clark Wheeler, Aspen Times editor and publisher.
Berg reconnected with Marie Elizabeth, a childhood acquaintance he had known in Germany, before they both immigrated to America. He married her in 1883 and she became one of the first brides to move to Aspen. They had three children.
The sweets store reigned almost six decades. After Berg died during the 1920s the eldest daughter took over the store and managed it until she died in 1926. Others outside the Berg family kept the business’ doors open until 1937.
Many of you may remember Louise Berg, the youngest daughter, who worked as the Pitkin County court clerk for much of her life. During the 1960s, the early days of KSNO, George Madsen frequently invited her as guest on his show. She would tell stories of Aspen with a distinctive, tasteful voice that delighted adult listeners.
Tim Willoughby’s family story parallels Aspen’s. He began sharing folklore while teaching Aspen Country Day School and Colorado Mountain College. Now a tourist in his native town, he views it with historical perspective. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.