Gourmet Chocolate in Old-Timey Brooklyn, USA

Finding anything “gourmet” in Brooklyn is easy nowadays, what with gentrification and all – such a filthy word. Most of us are used to the Brooklyn of the 70’s and 80’s when if you wanted high-end, hoity-toity snacks you went to “the city”. Brooklyn was for pizza and delis and bodegas. But there was a time when you didn’t have to go to Manhattan for fancy foodstuffs, you could put on your knickers and skip on over to the corner chocolate shoppe. One of these specialty stores was Loschen’s Confectionery at the corner of Classon Avenue and Prospect Place.

In 1913, a young German couple and their infant son came to America. They were Herman and Marie Loschen and their boy, John. Herman was a coopersmith and they were coming to stay with Marie’s brother, Fritz Schepper who appears to have owned the building where the store was. They settled in this new place called Prospect Heights and went into the candy business.

From what I’ve been able to figure out, Marie Loschen had at least three brothers, Fritz AKA Fred, John and Gerard and at least two of them owned a candy store at 772 Washington Avenue, about a 5 minute walk from their place on Prospect. I’m guessing that’s how Herman learned the trade. Smithing isn’t exactly the same as being a purveyor of chocolates.  All was going well, I would suppose, when not even a year later, poor John Schepper was killed in front of his store.  According to the October 20th, 1914 edition of the NY Tribune, a group of rowdy teenagers was causing trouble in front of the place. When John came out to chase them away, one 17 year old struck him in the chest. Sadly, it was fatal – he was all of 19 years old. I wasn’t able to find out much else about the Schepper’s store, I know Fritz owned it until at least 1918. On the 1920 census, Marie’s brother Gerard is living with the Loschens and is a clerk in their store downstairs. The Shepper candy store on Washington Ave is as of this writing listed as a nail salon.

As for our friends on Prospect Ave., they continued on selling their tasty wares, one of which was Pirika Chocolate. Pirika was a Brooklyn company and had a factory at 972 Dean Street. They had been around since 1895 and in 1919, along with several other candy manufacturers, expanded their operations in anticipation that prohibition would drive up the desire for sweets. Even though their cocoa “satisfies the most exacting epicures” for only 25 cents a can, people would still rather have beer than chocolate and by 1925, Pirika had succumbed to bankruptcy. I believe the building at Dean St. is still there.

Who else lived above the sweet shop? In 1911, one occupant there was selling his Hupmobile, but I don’t know what year it was or how much he was asking. Then there was the Canadian immigrant family of Charles Ganthie. He lives here too in 1920 and his occupation is also confectioner/own company. In 1910 Charles and kin can be found in Manhattan and he’s a barber. Did he go into business with Herman? Are these the two in the picture or did Chuck also know Fritz and was he set up in his own store? In any case, a German who made things out of copper and a Canadian hair dresser making chocolates together – there’s a combo. Only in America! I don’t know what happened to the Ganthie family, but a gaggle of Pennsylvanians named Swartley were living there in 1930, the patriarch of which owned an auto repair store. The rent for their place was $60 a month while the Loschens were paying $50.

Herman passed away at the young age of 48 in 1933, leaving behind Marie, John and his son, Herman, Jr. who was born after they came to America. From what I can tell, his sons didn’t carry on the family business. Since then, the space at Prospect & Classon has been a soda fountain, luncheonette, kosher butcher and is now a corner grocery, or what we NYers refer to as a bodega with its classic yellow sign with red letters – at least that’s what the street view shows on google maps. I don’t know if you can still buy candy there, but I would think so.

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4 Responses to Gourmet Chocolate in Old-Timey Brooklyn, USA

  1. marty Loschen says:

    Herman is my great grandfather
    Marty Loschen
    Shreveport La

  2. Anthony Benne says:

    Thanks for the article. Stumbled across it while doing research for the family tree. Herman Loschen would be my Great Great Grandfather. His grandson Bernard (Herman Jr’s son) is still living in Brooklyn today at 81 years old. Thanks again for the article it was a great help!

    • Margaret Fullarton says:

      Anthony Benne, Theckla below and I are cousins and would love to know more about the Schepers and Loschen crew – even here in Australia the Schepers name was mentioned in the family.

  3. Theckla Ledyard says:

    My mother, b. 1904 in Brooklyn, was an only child and all her childhood stories were about all the Schepers relatives….talk about going to their candy store…..I have letters between my Grandma and Fred Schepers, as he was the one going back to Germany now and then, who kept my Mom’s family up to date on the German family. In the way that things get confused in the telling, she always spoke about the Schepers who came out of the Brooklyn hotel and was punched in the heart by a ruffian and killed. Now I know which brother it was and he was so much younger than I imagined. So many little stories and now I can put a “face” to the Loeschens. Thank you!
    Theckla Ledyard

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