Kids (Again) In A Candy Shop

Outside Flesor's Candy Kitchen and Soda Fountain in Tuscola, Ill., there's a bit of false advertising: The prices are not the same as they were 75 years ago — but many of the patrons are.

Old-timers sit in booths, reminiscing. They say things like: "The sundaes were a dime and the Cokes were a nickel," and "I used to come in here back when I was 13 years old, because he used to make his own ice cream and candy and everything."

A Greek immigrant named Gus Flesor opened this place in 1901. Later his son Paul took over, and today Paul's daughters — Ann Flesor Beck and Devon Flesor Nau — became the third generation of candy makers here, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports in this week's Assignment America.

"A lot of our old customers come in and go straight to the booth where they used to date …" Ann says.

"… and probably carve their initials again," adds Devon.

And yet this is not just another story about a longstanding family business. This is a one-of-a kind comeback story about a family business that was all but forgotten.

How many years was this closed before the girls brought it back? A lot.

For 25 years, the building sat vacant and gutted. It closed after Paul retired in the late 70s and eventually fell into total disrepair.

"I was driving through town and there was a 'For Sale' sign in the window," says Ann, "and I started to wonder, 'what if?'"

The Flesor girls have multiple master's degrees. Before this, Devon taught English at Eastern Illinois University; Ann worked as a management consultant. The fact that they were willing to give all that up just to restart the family business makes their 84-year-old mother Betty just want to reach out and … wring their necks.

"I could have killed 'em," she said.

Betty says she and her husband Paul, when he was alive, both wanted their kids to have a better life than this.

"Because it is so difficult," she says. "You give up your life. Look at 'em; they're haggard."

"She's right," the daughters say. "Thanks, Mom."

What Ann and Devon have discovered is, maybe, that there is no better life than being a kid again in a candy store.

"We want to continue what our grandfather started," Ann says.

Like it or not.
  • Christine Lagorio

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