Group of teens at Perry’s Chocolate Shop at 1220 2nd St, c. 1946. If you recognize a Chocolate Shop patron, please comment below or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
On March 4, 1922, Tom Angnos opened Perry’s Chocolate Shop at 1109 2nd St. Tom emigrated from Greece to the United States in 1914, and worked on the railroad before becoming a candy maker and moving to Perry. In the early 1920s, the Chocolate Shop was a candy, ice cream, and soda shop, selling fudge and caramels for 15-28 cents per lb.
March 3, 1922 Perry Daily Chief ad for the grand opening of the Chocolate Shop at 1109 2nd St.
In 1925, George Barbes became the manager, moved the Chocolate Shop to 1116 2nd St, and began selling lunches.
December 14, 1927 Perry Daily Chief advertisement listing hot lunches and Christmas candy at
the Chocolate Shop.
The Chocolate Shop changed hands one more time, and survived a fire, before Al Kouri took over in November 1928. Kouri, an immigrant from Syria, came to the United States as a teenager in 1910. He had been awarded a prestigious high school education in France, but he didn’t like the school in Marseilles. With a group of friends, Kouri surprised his family by taking a ship to the United States instead of back to school. After sorting things out at Ellis Island, he moved to Des Moines, where he lived with an aunt and went to high school, before coming to Perry.
Kouri was one of the longest running owners of the Chocolate Shop (1928 – 1946), and under his management, the Chocolate Shop began to sell beer (1933) and moved to its 1220 2nd St. location (1937). Once beer sales began, the Chocolate Shop was divided into two, with a jukebox, lunch counter, and ice cream in the front and the bar in the back. The shop continued to be popular with high schoolers, railroaders, ladies, businessmen, and just about everyone else in town.
February 27, 1934 Komment Kolumn of the Perry High School Telital in the Perry Daily Chief. A teen criticizes a male friend for standing her up for their date at the Chocolate Shop.
The Chocolate Shop was later owned by Leonard Sorenson around 1946 – 1948, and managed by Barney Sorensen and D.D. Lewiston, who later served as Perry’s mayor. Around this time, the Chocolate Shop was briefly called Len’s Chocolate Shop, and was open for the first time on Sunday afternoons and evenings (1948).
Storefront of Len’s Chocolate Shop, c. 1946 – 1955.
After changing hands once again, and surviving another fire, Carroll and Helen Jenkins took ownership in 1956, and managed the store until it closed in 1977. Under the Jenkins, in 1964 the Chocolate Shop received a permit that allowed public dancing, as long as a policeman was present, and the addition of live music and dances cemented the Chocolate Shop as the Saturday night place to be. The Chocolate Shop closed when the Jenkins lost their lease in 1977, but a painting of the Milwaukee railroad train that hung inside can still be seen at the Crooked Rail bar here in Perry.
December 14, 1972 Perry Daily Chief ad for a Saturday Night dance at the Chocolate Shop.
This was not the end, however, of the Chocolate Shop. On January 18, 1979, another bar called the Chocolate Shop opened at 1215 Willis Ave. Unlike its predecessor, this establishment never specialized in homemade candy but was mainly a bar, which offered drink specials on Wednesday nights, weekday noon lunches, live music, fun and games on Saturday nights, and advertised a family environment, particularly on Sundays, when, by law, only half of the bar’s sales could come from alcohol. The new Chocolate Shop moved once in 1982, to 1211 Willis Ave, before it too later closed.
Thanks to Katie Edmondson, John Palmer, Larry Vodenik, and many others for sharing their Chocolate Shop memories and helping research this post. Please share your Chocolate Shop memories below, and for more, come see our exhibit on the Chocolate Shop at the Carnegie Library Museum, on display now through March 21, 2018.