Walter and Margaret Nichols opened their first little candy store in 1932 on Summer Street in Gloucester, conveniently located next to the Hovey School. In 1934, they decided to move to Sanford, Maine. The winter of 1934-35 is still mentioned as one of the coldest on record; they lasted six months there. After a brief stay and the birth of their son Bill on Long Island, NY—where Margaret was from—it was back to Gloucester, which was Walter’s hometown.
They opened a half-store at 46 Main Street, and soon expanded by taking over the other half. In those days, most people either walked or took the bus downtown, where every kind of store was represented. From W.G. Browns and Grants department store to Kennedy Butter & Egg and Henry the Hatter, downtown Gloucester offered everything—even a Sears Roebuck and a corset shop! The foot-traffic was great for Nichols Candies. While the store was located here, Walter and Margaret’s second child, Jane, was born. Margaret stayed home to raise the children, but at holiday time it was “all hands on deck,” and the whole family got involved—the kids even came down after school to pitch in.
The next move was a short distance up and across Main Street to a store right next door to the Strand Theater (now a parking lot). This is the store many of Gloucester’s older residents remember, because it was a favorite stop for a bag of candy or peanuts to take into the movies.
During World War II, Nichols Candies moved back across the street to 64 Main Street. The candy kitchen was much larger in this store, and the variety of candy reflected this. Nichols Candies made hand-dipped chocolates, fudge, salt water taffy, lollipops, hard candies, Christmas ribbon candy, and peppermint candy canes (still a Gloucester favorite).
The last store on Main Street was in the heart of town where all the buses going around Cape Ann stopped. The storefront had previously been a favorite restaurant of the locals. Walter decided to keep the restaurant, so as you entered the store the candy counter ran along the right side, and a lunch counter ran along the left. The back half of the store was a dining room, and the restaurant kitchen was in the rear. The bottom floor (the basement) was the candy kitchen and “dipping room,” with a staircase that came up directly behind the candy counter upstairs.
They stayed here into the 1950s. World War II ended, more people were traveling by car, and a new highway—Rte. 128—was being built with a high-rise bridge linking Cape Ann to the rest of the world. With great foresight, Walter purchased a parcel of land at the intersection of Rte. 128 and Crafts Rd. Crafts Rd. was an overpass, which made the property easily accessible from the northbound and southbound sides of the highway. This is where he built, to his own specifications, the store that remains today. Things were pretty quiet over there on the highway when the store first opened in the fall of 1954, but that was to change as more people discovered Cape Ann’s beauty. Cape Ann became a tourist destination, industry in Gloucester grew by leaps and bounds, and Nichols Candies welcomed everyone who passed over the bridge.
Walter and Margaret were working together again, soon to be joined by their daughter, Jane, and later by their son Bill and his wife Barbara.
Nichols Candies is currently owned by Bill and Barbara, and Jane has recently retired. Margaret and Walter are gone now, but their legacy lives on with the addition of their grandson, Steve Nichols, and great-granddaughter, Theresa Whitman, working in the business. Nichols Candies is in its 74th year, and remains a Gloucester tradition.