Caroline C. Morris
La Crosse was one sweet town in the early twentieth century. It boasted three candy factories by the 1920s, the biggest of which was Joseph B. Funke Candy Company, at the corner of State and Front Streets. With elaborate packaging such as this wood-burned box, it’s no wonder that Funke chocolates were well-known in this part of the country.
Joseph B. Funke, a first-generation American born in Minnesota to German-born parents, incorporated his fledgling candy company in 1890, and built a state-of-the-art plant for it in 1898. Hundreds of La Crosse residents, and particularly young women seeking economic opportunities, worked at the Funke Candy Company until it closed in 1933.
All was not smooth sailing for the Funke Candy Company. In the summer of 1900, for instance, the company “had a little trouble with some of their employees,” according to the La Crosse Tribune and Leader-Press, and 25 employees walked out. But business was brisk enough that by 1920, company president Joseph Funke could afford to live at 1419 Cass St., now popularly known as “The Castle.”
In a matter of days, the Funke Candy Company building will reopen as The Charmant Hotel, so named for Funke’s premiere line, the “Charmant Chocolates.” One wonders if visitors will receive locally made chocolates on their pillows?
This article was originally featured in the La Crosse Tribune.