Our story started in the 1920s in Louisville KY. Rudy Muth and Isabel Stengel were a young couple who had spent time working for Bradis and Gheens, a local large scale candy manufacturer. Rudy was a hard candy maker and Belle was a caramel wrapper (she wrapped caramels for a Penny a Pound!). Rudy was drafted into the Army during World War I and was a cook. When Rudy returned home from the war they decided to strike out on their own and Rudy spent his weekdays making candy and his weekends selling the candy out of his wagon. They eventually moved their production to a second floor of a building on East Market and there were 5 Employees (Rudy Muth, Leo Muth (Rudy’s Brother) Isabel Stengel, Hildegard Stengel (Belle’s 16 year old sister) and Loretta Hemmer (who continued to work at Muth’s until the early 1980s) made candies.
On February 1st 1921 the business opened its first storefront at 526 East Market (the building and original 6 glass display cases, a dowry gift from Isabel’s mother.) These five workers spent the 1920s and 1930s building a store that sold handmade confections, caramelized popcorn and penny candies. These years were a mix of post war highs and depression era struggles but they seemed to hang around and keep the people of Louisville hooked on their sweets. Rudy and Belle even married and Hilde welcomed her first and only son Stanley Bennett Sr. in 1933.
When World War II came around the federal government introduced rations to help the war effort so sugar, our main ingredient in most candies, became scarce. Thanks to our wonderful customers who would bring in their sugar rations we were able to stay around and keep making wonderful candies. Post war boom helped the store thrive in the east part of downtown for the rest of the decade. The early 1950s served a large blow to the family when Rudy suffered a heart attack and passed away in 1953. Rudy’s passing was a hit to production but thankfully Belle and Hilde had been running the business together for years and with the help of family were able to get through the difficult time.
In 1962 the storefront was forced to move when interstate 65 was brought through downtown Louisville. The state served notice and the sisters started looking for a place to move the store. With only a short period of time left and a multitude of Sundays spent driving around looking for a feasible option they came across 630 East Market only one block east of their current storefront. So began the gargantuan task of relocating not only their fragile glass display cases but all the machinery and equipment they used to cook and coat their candies. With the new location came more square footage for the retail space which allowed for the purchase of more antique display cases (These additions actually came second hand from Bradis and Gheens the candy company the Muth’s worked for in their youth.) The sisters spent the rest of the 60s happy with a thriving business!
Belle and Hilde ran the business together with the help of Hilde’s daughter-in-law and her children for the next two decades. Belle passed away in 1981 after 60 years of dedicating her life to the company she and her husband had built. For the following decade Hilde along with her family, including her seven grandchildren led the business through the 1980s in Louisville while the majority of people were fleeing downtown.
The 1990’s was a rough time for the family as it brought the passing of Hilde, her son and daughter in law, one grandson and one great grandson who were vital to the store. This decade served to show our families resilience and commitment to continuing a legacy no matter what life served us. The remaining siblings and many employees who were considered family rallied together while led by Martha Bennett Vories (Stanley’s daughter) and brought the business into the 21st century.
The early 2000s was an era of change for the business as downtown was no longer the place to be in Louisville so the family needed to find new avenues of income. The introduction of the internet and ecommerce as well as expanding corporate clientele were two of the strategic decisions the 3rd generation made to keep their families legacy alive. By the time the 2008 recession had come and went the neighborhood Muth’s had spent nine decades in was starting to be revitalized and was bringing new face and businesses to Muth’s.
All struggles and big wins have led us to a place where the 3rd and 4th generation are currently working hand in hand to maintain the wonderful welcoming place that Lousivillians have come to see as a part of their families traditions. Hilde once said she wanted a store where her employees felt like family and her customers, friends. Well we feel the same way and think we have done a pretty good job of achieving her dream over the last 101 years.
We, as the only remaining legacy of the original 5 employees, take very seriously our responsibility to maintain the quality of confection and the heart that our ancestors put into this business. We also can not take full credit for the success of the store. We would like to thank the thousands of customers, hundreds of employees, and dozens of family members whose support, sacrifice and love have kept us going for over a century.