Get to know the Untiedt family
Geneva's 'sweetest' family
grows its business,
rooted on Third Street
GENEVA –Robert Untiedt had gotten his foot in the door with at a Skokie factory that was connected to a candy consulting firm. When he took his job as plant manager, he said he knew next to nothing about making candies.
But that slowly changed in the next few years as the best candy makers in the business started teaching him the craft.
"They moved me 10 years forward just by their knowledge," he said.
Fast-forward to today, and his candy business, Graham's Fine Chocolates & Ice Cream, has firmly rooted itself in the Geneva community after more than two decades in business.
After his father passed away in 1987, Untiedt decided to quit his job and looked to open his own business. Drawing inspiration from the candy business combined with the nostalgic Kool-Aid stands he set up as a kid, he opened Graham's – a candy store where almost everything is made from scratch, in-house.
Some of the candy production takes place at the front of the store, in a window-laden room that's visible from the sidewalk outside, and the open hall. Young visitors frequently can be seen, noses pressed against the glass watching in delight as the homemade treats come together.
"Showing people candy-making felt so fascinating, so we put it in the window," he said. "It's kind of validating what's going on."
Many family members help run Graham's, along with Graham's 318 Coffeehouse down the street another candy location in Wheaton. Untiedt's wife, Beckie; daughters, Jayni Wunderlich and Maddi Foote; and sister-in-law, Bonnie Pechous all pitch in at the store.
Wunderlich said she wouldn't have it any other way.
"It would break my heart to have someone else own it," she said. "It's just a family business. It's so much fun. All our employees are really like family."
Untiedt said the business has "evolved tremendously" in the last 25 years. He sticks to some old-fashioned recipes, and some of his equipment dates back to the 1920s, while other pieces,such as the gelato machine, are state-of-the-art,
Customers buy such a wide variety of candies that Untiedt said it's difficult to narrow down which products are the most popular. He did note that the double dark truffles are always a hit, along with the homemade marshmallows. His company continues to add a modern twist on old favorites. He said the jalapeno pepper, bacon and beer-flavored peanut brittle was hit during Valentine's Day.
"You take what works and keep it, but you keep your ear to the rail for what coming," he said.
Untiedt said his passion for what he does, and his love for the people who shop at Graham's are among the reasons the business has thrived.
"There's such a sense of community and wanting to be part of Geneva," he said. "They're great ambassadors for us."
Moving forward, Untiedt said he has plans to begin to serve beer and wine at Graham's 318 Coffeehouse. He said he hopes to have everything in place by fall.
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