Gertrude Hawk, the daughter of Gomer and Ellen Jones, was born in 1903. Her father died when he was 42, and her mother suffered with a severe heart ailment. As there was no welfare, Social Security, or Aid to Families with Dependent Children at that time, Gertrude (who was 12 years old and received an eighth grade education) went to work in a local candy shop. It was there she learned and came to love the art of chocolate dipping.
In 1922, at age 19, Gertrude married Elmer C. Hawk. In 1924 Elmer R. was born, followed by Richard in 1928. For the next few years Gertrude was busy with the upbringing of her sons.
In 1936, at the height of the Great Depression, Gertrude felt that she could put her knowledge of, and natural affinity for, the art of chocolate making to the service of making a little extra money for her family. And so Gertrude Hawk Chocolates began that year in the kitchen of her small home in the Bunker Hill section of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Gertrude Hawk's little cottage industry remained pretty much static for the next ten years, until her son Elmer, who had been held in a German prisoner-of-war camp for a year and a half, returned home from World War II and made the decision to become business partners with his parents and work to make their tiny enterprise a success. He took the pay that was due him from his World War II service - about $3,500 - and purchased machinery and equipment for the fledgling candy business.
"I liked the candy business" says Elmer. "Maybe because I liked eating chocolate. It's a fun business. Very rarely do you meet someone who doesn't enjoy chocolate. To me there is just something magnetic about it. Most of all the thrill was watching something grow from nothing, and getting the enthusiastic feedback."
Despite Elmer's dedication to the promise of chocolate, the enterprise remained in the twilight zone between survival and oblivion for many years. In 1946, the first year for which records were kept, the company showed gross sales of $2,985, selling their fine chocolate for sixty cents per pound. Even considering that chocolate and sugar at the time cost only about ten cents a pound, it is hard to imagine that any business, let alone one in which every task required painstaking hand-crafting and labor, could survive on gross sales of $3,000.
In 1948, Elmer Hawk and Louise Horger, who had met a month after Elmer's discharge from the service, married. Their marriage forged a union and a business partnership that was to last a lifetime. During those beginning years, Elmer took on a variety of other jobs to bring in extra money, including delivering groceries for the local Reidmiller store, and chauffeuring and doing odd jobs for the wife of one of the Samter Brothers, owners of one of downtown Scranton's best-known men's stores at the time.
"I think that earned me $40 a week. Mrs. Samter was a very kind lady. I used to vacuum for her, clean the windows, take her wherever she wanted to go. And when I wasn't busy with her, she'd say, "You go ahead and take the car home, Elmer, you go ahead and make your candy. I'll call you if I need you."
During these first years Louise was the financial mainstay by teaching business at the Falls-Overfield School near Lake Winola, PA. Louise started to become involved with the business by working on the books and accounts, a role that continued and expanded greatly over the years, although she did not become fully involved until after her youngest child, Bob, went to school.
Two of the most important things that happened in those first "official" years of the business were the purchase of the very first machines, to help relieve some of the time-consuming hand work, and Gertrude's decision to establish a "fundraising" foundation for her business by contracting with local religious and civic groups, who could raise funds by selling Gertrude Hawk Chocolates. Gertrude's very first such alliances were with the Petersburg Lutheran Church and the Myrtle Street Methodist Church in Scranton.
The fundraising approach turned out to be an uncannily astute, even visionary, business decision. It was the only truly practical way to get the name and product out to a broad base of the community and to make any appreciable money, because there was no way to establish a real self-sustaining retail outlet. Direct sales at that time were limited to some neighbors and customers who would visit their Mark Ave. house, where the dining room table had been moved out of the way and a little counter set up for the chocolates during the holiday season.
Making deliveries for their fundraising customers, using a sometimes unreliable array of personal cars, led to some adventures. One involved delivery of a very large and important order to the small town of Athens, in Bradford County, just south of the New York state line. "We went out there at 9 p.m. in an old 1948 Ford station wagon with a heater that didn't work," Elmer recalls. "The temperature was ten below zero. Afterward we had to drop someone in Taylor. We didn't get home until three in the morning and had to be up again at six."
Elmer's natural mechanical skills came into strong play as the new venture fought to find its niche. "My love for machinery and equipment kept us a few steps ahead of the competition," he notes. "We bought machinery little by little, rebuilt it in the summers or in slow times. Then I'd know, from taking it apart, how it worked, so if we had a problem with it later I'd know how to go in and deal with it. We'd find out about available machines from our grapevine of salesmen and suppliers. They'd always know about anybody who was going out of business or selling equipment."
In 1959 Elmer and Louise - now with four children - confirmed the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's plans to take Gertrude's Mark Avenue home for an Interstate 81 bridge. So started a search for a suitable existing building or for an available and affordable piece of land on which to construct their own building. By this time the business was grossing $125,000 per year. They eventually found a piece of land, about four acres in all, off the Tigue Street Exit of Interstate 81 in Dunmore. They paid $6,200 for the property.
The factory section of the building was completed in November 1962, with the operation moving in just before Thanksgiving. The front retail area was not opened until July of 1963, delayed by complications arising from the decision to run a full-scale restaurant instead of a coffee shop.
The manufacturing plant was 4,800 square feet, while the retail area was 2,200 square feet. Over the next 25 years seven additions were added, bringing the total to 90,000 square feet, used for manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution. The restaurant operated until August 23,1973 when it was converted into a candy shop.
Shortly before Elmer's buyout of his parents' ownership and the closing of the restaurant, son David Hawk, who would become president and CEO two decades later, finished college at Pennsylvania State University, and joined the company full time. Before long he would introduce concepts which would transform the company - most notably the creation of a chain of Hawk retail outlets, based upon instincts he developed in his first key position, managing the Drinker Street store.
In 1992 Elmer Hawk retired from the day to day running of the business and his son, David Hawk, had taken over as President and CEO. David remained in the position until he handed the CEO and President role to newcomer Bill Aubrey, formerly of Kraft Foods. David remains active within the organization as Chairman of the Board and Director of Research and Development.
Today, as Bill Aubrey and David Hawk lead the company a long way from its fundraising roots, Gertrude Hawk Chocolates is now a $90 million annual business with four divisions: Retail, Ingredients/Inclusions, Fundraising, Contract Manufacturing, and Frango Marshall Fields/Macy's of Chicago and Wholesale. Fundraising continues to be a very successful division of the company and with the other corporate divisional advances, Gertrude Hawk Chocolates employs over 1,000 people.
Seventy-five Gertrude Hawk Chocolates Chocolate Shops can be found throughout the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. These cozy and welcoming shops along with our Fund Raising, Corporate Gifts and the Web Divisions, are all areas that offer chocolate sales under the Gertrude Hawk Chocolates brand. The Wholesale Division provides a full range of chocolate products to other retailers through a subsidiary brand, Mark Avenue Chocolates. Also, in the Gertrude Hawk Chocolates Contract Manufacturing Division, we take pride in manufacturing many other products for other retailers under their proprietary brands. To name just a few of the several notable brands we supply chocolates and confections are Marshall Field's/Macy's of Chicago, Hershey, Nestle and Fannie May.
Another way you might taste Gertrude Hawk Chocolates is in your ice cream, since one of the company's most successful products has been the development of ice cream "inclusions", the tiny chocolate bits that can be found in most leading ice cream brands. In recent times, we have also entered the "Bakables" market with production of molded chocolate confections formulated to withstand high baking temperatures while maintaining fun shapes!
Aside from daily business activity, our company is highly dedicated to the community in the greater Scranton area. We have devoted an entire Community Relations Department to raise money through raffles, food sales and most notably, the annual Gertrude Hawk Chocolates Charity Golf Classic. All monies help support the myriad organizations, including the Make A Wish Foundation, Red Cross, local Boys and Girls Clubs, Women's Resource Center and many more. The Hawk family also places much importance on education. Therefore, the Hawks offer scholarships at Elmer's alma mater, Keystone College, as well as at Penn State Worthington Scranton, Johnson Technical Institute and the DePaul School. Every GHC employee is encouraged to become involved in all community activites.
The company is involved on many levels, but the first love is always chocolate and all the ways people love it. Chocolate trends are always changing and Gertrude Hawk Chocolates has been known to deliver quality through many different channels. David Hawk himself has been passionate about chocolate ever since he was a young boy and that passion continues to flourish in his creativity today. David has been the 60th recipient to be awarded the prestigious Kettle Award by Candy Industry Magazine in July 2005.
As David Hawk is fast at work in the most innovative ways to serve his chocolate, President and CEO Bill Aubrey continues to lead our company towards new heights. The Gertrude Hawk Chocolates brand has established many loyal consumers and continues to build brand recognition through its flagship Retail division. Aubrey believes that powering Retail and the other flagship Ingredients division, the company will surge to the next level and generate sales revenue over $100 million annually.