LIMA — Six decades later the memory remained, as sweet as its inspiration.
The year was 1984, but the woman, identified only as an 88-year-old widow, was thinking of the 1920s when she wrote restaurant owner Chris Anthony about the confectionary his father, George Anthony, had operated at 117 W. High St. Chris Anthony shared the letter in the business section of The Lima News.
“The Sweetland Confectionary (now Anthony’s Restaurant), the many trays of candy, the sweet aroma, was the favorite gathering place of our young married groups, after the basketball games, or an evening at the Faurot Opera House across the street,” the woman wrote.
“I am remembering most of all,” she added “my enjoyment of what your father called ‘a tin roof sundae,’ vanilla ice cream, chocolate topping and a generous shower of peanuts. Your father visited among the customers, a happy time and a happy way to end an evening out and home to the babysitter.”
The site of the original Sweetland long ago became a parking lot on the east side of the downtown Chase Bank, while the site of its successor, the Anthony Brothers restaurant, disappeared with the rest of the southeast quadrant of the Square in recent years. The restaurants, however, survive in the memories of many residents.
Sweetland was opened in the early 1920s by George D. Anthony, who was born on Christmas Day 1896 in Argos, Greece. At the age of 12, he immigrated to the United States and began working at his uncle’s restaurant in upstate New York, Chris Anthony wrote in the News in 1984.
“When he had enough money to start his own business, he boarded a train to Chicago. He evidently became tired of traveling and settled in Lima in 1923,” Chris Anthony wrote. In 1927, George Anthony married Mary Sariotis and the couple raised three children, sons Chris and James and daughter Kula.
Early ads for the confectionary, which was located beneath the Lima treasurer’s office in the old city building on West High Street, touted its sodas, sundaes and light lunches, and noted its location across from the Faurot Opera House.
Customers from the 1920s and early ‘30s remember entertainers performing at the opera house eating at Sweetland. During the Depression, one woman remembered, some “candidly admitted that they could not afford a shoe shine and apologized for their not very fresh appearance.”
“When Spencer Tracy was first starting out, he used to cook his own eggs at the restaurant for half price,” Chris Anthony recalled in the 1984 story. “Blackstone the Magician used to room in dad’s office during the Depression because he was unable to pay for a hotel room.”
Local high school athletes also found Sweetland to their liking, particularly when they ate for free. “Living up to his promise, George Anthony, proprietor of the Sweetland, 117 W. High St., treated the entire basketball team of South high school Friday night after it conquered Central high,” the News wrote Feb. 7, 1926. “Anthony promised both teams that the victors could enter his lunchroom and confectionary shop and have their choice of eats and drinks at his expense. He was more fortunate than after the last game between these teams. The game then was a tie and the host had to stand treat for both teams.”
In the late 1940s the old city building was sold to the owners of the Leader Store and Sweetland found a new home in the Square. “Taking shape at 34 Public Square is the new Sweetland confectionary which owner George Anthony, 814 E. Vine St., confesses modestly, will be ‘one of the finest confectionaries in Ohio,” the News wrote May 16, 1948. “The Sweetland, which has operated at 117 W. High St. since Jan. 13, 1924, closed its doors Saturday, complying with the Leader store’s request for occupancy.”
The new location, which had, over the years, housed the Cooper Candy company, cigar stores and restaurants, was about three times the size of Sweetland’s High Street location, the News noted.
Accompanying George Anthony to the new location was what the News described as a “huge” Easter egg. “Sweetland man George Anthony had his giant candy Easter egg on display Saturday,” the News wrote March 22, 1953. “History of the egg, which contains real fruit and cream filling, dates back to 1922 when it was a five-pounder, left over after Easter season. Each year, filling has been added. Now its 25 inches long and 19 inches wide. George says it’s the biggest real candy Easter egg in the United States … He won’t say how much it weighs now.” What became of the egg, which the News noted was “inedible,” is not known.
On Aug. 15, 1948, the News announced that “George Anthony will formally open his new Sweetland confectionery at 34 Public Square Thursday. One of the tenants who was evicted because of the Leader store’s purchase of the old City Building, Anthony has completed a wall-to-wall remodeling and redecorating program and installed all new fixtures.”
A News ad on Aug. 19, 1948, touted the grand opening. Sweetland, the ad proclaimed, offered real peach ice cream from Sealtest, as well as “delicious home-made candies,” a luncheonette with “moderate prices,” all of which could be enjoyed in “completely air-conditioned” comfort.
With the arrival of Sweetland in the southeast quadrant, the move at about the same time of Ark of Sweets, another confectionary started by a Greek Immigrant, to the northeast quadrant, and Nesbitt’s candy shop in the northwest quadrant, the Public Square became a destination for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Seventy-one-year-old George Anthony died in 1968, seven years after his wife, and Chris Anthony took over the confectionary, making one immediate change. Because of the rising price of sugar, Sweetland, which had become Anthony Brothers, stopped making candy and began concentrating on the restaurant and catering business. Chris Anthony and his brother, James Anthony, ran the business.
Besides the Public Square restaurant, the brothers by 1970 ran the Cook Tower coffee shop, a cafeteria and snack bar at OSU-Lima, as well as catering for such former Lima industries as Superior Coach Corp. and Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corp. They also catered for weddings, office parties, church groups and had the contract to feed prisoners in the city jail. According to a story in the May 31, 1970, edition of the News, the company prepared more than 1,000 meals daily.
Chris Anthony died in 2006.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.