Article Contributed by
Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist
The Palace of Sweets! What a royal and mouth-watering appellation for a confectionery shop owned by three Greek brothers from the charming town of Amalias. Chris and George Hennas came to Jamestown in the early 1920s to open their business in what was then Roosevelt Square. They had learned the art, craft, and science of candy making from their father in the old country, and their talents made it possible for them and their brother Dimitri, who joined them as a partner by the mid-1920s, to be in business in the city until the early 1930s.
Herb Hennas, an old friend and neighbor from the Lost Neighborhood, namely Derby Street, recalled how his father Dimitri would give him all of the candy and ice cream his mother Eva would allow! But on occasion, without his mother’s knowledge, his father would take him to the store cellar where he would lick the milk chocolate that still lined the sides of the copper kettle where it was made. As Herb declared, “I was living the life of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory!”
The Palace of Sweets was a popular store, and in spite of the Great Depression and the squeeze on everyone’s pocket book, people still sought out the sweet treats that the Hennas boys had to offer—everything from hand-dipped chocolates to ice cream that found its way into sodas and sundaes that were topped with hand-made sauces and flavorings such as strawberry, chocolate, hot fudge, butterscotch, and coffee.
Now, dear readers, allow yourselves to take a journey into the past. As you walked into the Palace of Sweets, you would find a large glass case to the left of the entrance at 7 S. Main filled with a variety of chocolates ranging from nut clusters, chocolate-covered creams, and liquid-center chocolate-covered cherries to a tray of intensely flavored fruit gels. To the right were booths were you could have a light lunch (mostly sandwiches) with coffee, tea, or a Coke. Opposite the entrance was the “operation center” of the store with a marble-topped soda fountain and a row of seats. Ice cream was made in full sight of the customers at the far end of the counter using refrigeration supplied by compressors in the cellar. Customers could order anything from a chocolate malted milkshake or a strawberry soda to a banana split. But by far, the piece de resistance was the Palace’s famous Flaming Youth, a sundae made with several flavors of ice cream and fruit sauces topped off and served with a sugar cube that had been dipped in brandy and set aflame. Quite a show!
However, the Hennas boys, who were confectioners par excellence, entered a best-dressed window contest sponsored by the Roosevelt Square Merchants Association (R.S.M.A.) in 1923 that really showcased their talents. As the story goes, the judges thought the Hennas brothers’ display was imaginative, but how could they make an award based on a bouquet of roses that was the window’s centerpiece? It was George who said, “Look closer. That’s not a bouquet of roses. That bouquet is made of candy.” And, indeed, the brothers had created each rose, a petal at a time, of candy! No question. The Hennas boys won the First Prize Window Contest award given by the R.S.M.A. on October 25, 1923.
But things change, and by 1934 the Hennas brothers had moved on, and the Palace Gardens Restaurant occupied the ground-level store where their business had been. The other change that took place in November of 1925 in that Main Street area of Jamestown was the restoration of the name Brooklyn Square to what had been Roosevelt Square from 1919 to 1925, so named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt.
The Hennas brothers had assimilated to the American way of life and struck out on their own. George Hennas moved on to another store in the Hotel Jamestown called the Fountainbleau and then moved his wife and child to Maine to settle down in Old Orchard Beach and open the Kopper Kettle candy store catering to summer beach crowds. Chris Hennas married a girl from Greece and soon he and wife and child moved to Haverhill, Massachusetts, in the mid-1930s to open up the Mayfair Tearoom. And Dimitri Hennas moved wife and children to Salamanca where he provided homemade chocolates and ice cream to a friend’s restaurant patrons and later returned to Jamestown to work for Lambros’s Restaurant located on Main and Second Street.
The Hennas brothers are an example of the kind of life European immigrants could make in the city of Jamestown as their talents kept up with their opportunities from the Old World to the New World. Much of the same kind of history of Jamestown’s immigrant families and their success in businesses of their own can be found in my first book The Lost Neighborhood Collection (2010) available for reading at the Prendergast Library and the Hultquist Library on the JCC campus or for sale at the Fenton History Center in Jamestown and Off the Beaten Path Book Store in Lakewood.