We have fond memories of the Paul Anast Confectionery on Broadway. The minute you stepped inside the nondescript-looking industrial building you were transported by the smell of warm chocolate. You could watch the candy being made in all shapes and sizes in front of your eyes. Their peanut butter ribbon candy was utterly amazing, but the peanut brittle was awesome too.
Paul Anast was born in Turkey in the mid-1890s and emigrated to America as a child. His family originally settled in Ohio, but after serving in World War I, he made his way to Albany. He worked initially with Alex Anast (who appears to have been a cousin who’d arrived in the Albany area from Turkey a couple of years earlier). Paul Anast opened his first confectionery shop in 1919, at 40 Lark Street, on the corner of Third Street, in a former grocery store. During the early 1920s Anast is also listed in city directories as working in several other candy stores (the Boston Candy Kitchen and the Crystal Candy Kitchen) on South Pearl. (A busy man!)
Despite many other confectioners in Albany in the 1920s (during Prohibition, people traded one vice for another and people were wild for candy) Anast’s business thrived. In 1933 he relocated to 1080 Broadway (near Niagara Mohawk) in North Albany. This is the location many of us remember. The company was primarily wholesale. It supplied much of the chocolate Easter and other holiday candy sold in the area Woolworth stores, as well as corner candy store/ice cream parlors, variety stores and pharmacies.
The retail business was relatively small, but at Easter and Christmas in the 1960s you could get amazing hand molded chocolate bunnies and Santas that were unlike anything you could find in any other store. Anast used perfectly tempered Hershey’s chocolate and vintage Weygandt/Reiche molds that were decades old.*
The company also made a uniquely Albany candy called “contrabands” – little nuggets of golden light molasses, peppermint and butter that resembled “yellow jackets”. Why were they called contrabands? Here’s the legend: the girls who attended St. Agnes School on Elk St. circa 1900 would buy them from Mr. Mason’s candy store on Washington and S. Swan, and smuggle them into class. Episcopal Bishop Doane, founder of the exclusive school, was outraged and declared the candies “contraband”.
The Anast candy factory closed in 1970 and Mr. Anast passed away in 1979, but he left generations of Albanians with wonderful memories.
*The original Lark St. store was about 2 blocks from where my grandmother grew up on Livingston Ave. and a couple of times she asked him to make a chocolate bunny she remembered from her teenage years; he went in to the backroom, rummaged around and produced the mold – so my brother and I could have the same Easter bunny. It was ALMOST too good to eat.
Thanks to Al Quaglieri for much of what is written here.
Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor