Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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May 4, 2012

Olympia Candy Kitchen celebrates its 100th anniversary

Former Olympia employees tie on aprons to raise money for cancer services

GOSHEN — For 100 years, encompassing probably more than 300,000 days of doing business, The Olympia Candy Store has always been about the customers.

But on Friday, for just a few hours in the early evening, all that changed.

That’s when the historic little candy shop and diner on the corner of Clinton and Main streets turned its attention to the generations of people who worked on the grill, made the specialty drinks and served the nut olive sandwiches.

Oh, the customers still got the attention they needed, but Friday was one for the workers as more than a dozen former employees returned to strap on the red waitress apron, wash a few dishes and flip a few burgers.

“It’s like we never left,” said Jessica Elliott who worked as a waitress for about five years in the early 1990s and is credited in part with the idea of the reunion.

She said she and others had talked about having a reunion of sorts for years and decided to do it this year to commemorate the store’s 100th anniversary and coordinate it as a cancer benefit in memory of store manager Kare Andersen’s brother, Doug Johnston, who died last December of a brain tumor.

Anderson and Johnston are part of the fourth generation of family who have owned and operated the store since it was opened in 1912 by their great grandfather, Nicholas Paflas.

On Friday night, waitresses at the Olympia donated tips to help fight cancer.

The charity effort also ties in with today’s scheduled Compassion Walk, a cancer fundraiser organized by United Cancer Services of Elkhart County. This year’s honorary chairperson is Doug Johnston’s wife, Jeannine.

Outside the doors of the Olympia, the Circle of Friends, a cancer fund raising group, sold coffee mugs, jewelry and other items to benefit United Cancer Services.

Andersen bought shirts for the staff emblazoned with their first name and the year they graduated high school to help give an indication of when they worked at the store.

Since the event coincided with First Fridays, Andersen said he was expecting a strong turnout and made sure he was ready by ordering extra hamburger and preparing extra potato salad.

For Elliott and literally hundreds of others, working at the store often happened to be their first real job.

But it was more than just a paycheck.

“A lot of my friends worked here and we just had a lot of camaraderie,” Elliott said. “A lot of joke playing went on and it was just very special.”

Mindi Swihart was another who had been looking forward to a reunion, but for her, it was also a family get-together.

Joining her was her father, Max Wiese, who worked at the store in the early 1960s, and Ryan, one of two brothers who also worked at the store.

When Swihart was waiting tables in the early 1990s, she met David Swihart, a regular customer, who she later married.

“Back then, this was the place to work in high school,” Swihart recalled. “All of us became very close friends. I met so many great people.”

“It’s kind of been a family tradition and now, my daughter, who is three months old, someday will work here as well.”

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