Carl A. Goldenberg, 85, of Center City, who continued his family's legacy of making Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, died Monday, Oct. 14, of prostate cancer at his home.
Mr. Goldenberg was the first member of the third generation in his family to operate Goldenberg Candy Co. The business was started in 1890 by his grandfather David, a Romanian immigrant, as a small candy store on Frankford Avenue.
"That was Dad's calling - to go into the family business," said his son, David, the last Goldenberg to be president of Goldenberg Candy Co. "It was very important to him because his name was on the package."
Mr. Goldenberg learned the business from the ground up, starting in the production plant in 1950 after graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor's degree in economics, his son said. "That's how we all learned it."
After a four-year stint in the Air Force during the Korean War, Mr. Goldenberg returned to Philadelphia and began a 55-year career in the chocolate and confectionery business.
Peanut Chews have been produced in Philadelphia since 1917. The chew - a bar of peanuts coated in molasses and chocolate - was a regional confection until 2006, when it became available in all 50 states.
The Goldenberg family started by selling candy apples, cotton candy, and lollipops, mostly at carnivals and fairs. Family members made the confections in their Kensington home and sometimes sold the goodies from their front porch.
Eventually the business moved into a plant on Wyoming Avenue in Feltonville, where the candies were produced for 50 years. The company moved to a larger location on State Road in the Northeast in 1997.
Peanut Chews were spawned shortly after World War I, and the military began including them in K-rations, along with other individually wrapped candies such as fudge. The candies remained popular with soldiers after they mustered out.
In 1949, the company decided to phase out all other products and focus on its most profitable candy, the Peanut Chew.
"The industry became overproduced as soon as sugar rations ended," Mr. Goldenberg said in a 1999 Inquirer interview. "Everybody was making candy, and it became an unprofitable business for many."
Peanut Chews generated about $15 million in annual sales before the family sold the business in 2003 to Just Born Inc. of Bethlehem, Pa., maker of Peeps and Mike and Ike candies.
Mr. Goldenberg was the last president of a group called the Philadelphia Manufacturers of Confectionery and Chocolate, whose member companies had included the makers of Goobers, Raisinets, Sno-Caps, Good & Plenty, and the 5th Avenue Bar, all now made elsewhere.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 60 years, Barbara; another son, Samuel; five grandchildren; a brother; and a sister.
A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Congregation Rodeph Shalom, 615 N. Broad St. Interment will be private.
Donations may be made to the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, 3925 Chestnut St., Philadelphia 19104.