Carrie Rengers

One of Wichita’s oldest, sweetest businesses is no longer going to have a storefront

Since 1885, Cero’s Candies has been a Wichita fixture, but by the end of this month, the latest storefront for the business will be gone.

“I know it’s got a long history,” says owner Betty Albrecht. “The goal is to build it back up.”

Starting around spring, Albrecht plans to run the business from her home in Newton.

“I’m not giving up,” she says. “I am taking a break.”

Albrecht has been through a lot with the business in the last year and a half or so.

A move to bring on partners devolved into a lawsuit and restraining order last year.

Once that was over, Albrecht decided to move.

Cero’s has had multiple sites along Douglas in its beginning and in more recent years. It also was on East Kellogg for a long stint in between.

Albrecht moved the store from 3429 E. Douglas to the former Monica’s Bundt Cake space at 1328 E. Douglas in an effort to get in an area with more walk-in business.

“Well, I moved because I thought it would be visually better for people to come into the store,” she said earlier this year when she contemplated closing. “I really haven’t got the customers that I thought I would get.”

Then Albrecht came close to a deal to sell the business, but it didn’t work out.

“I couldn’t sell it . . . so I’m just going to close it but keep it available online.”

Albrecht says she would still consider selling the business.

If that doesn’t happen and she reopens in the spring, she plans to attend farmers’ markets to sell her products.

Albrecht may have some items, such as marshmallows, to sell online between now and spring. She won’t have chocolate, though.

“It takes a special technique to temper it.”

She won’t have the equipment at home to do it.

It’s possible to make it without that equipment, but Albrecht says, “I need to take time and learn it.”

She says that’s part of what this break is about.

“I want to learn things and experiment.”

At its beginning, Cero’s didn’t sell chocolate.

The business was started by “Candy PeteCero, a native of Greece who came to Wichita for railroad work in 1883. The crew left him behind when he became ill, and he turned to candy-making to earn money.

Cero’s didn’t make chocolates until the 1930s.

The store sold tobacco, peanut brittle and taffy early on, and records show it once had a lunch counter, too. In the 1930s, Cero’s started making chocolate. In the 1940s, it had an ice cream soda fountain.

Cero’s has gone through a number of changes in the past decade, with new locations and new owners.

Albrecht expects to close sometime before Thanksgiving.

In addition to selling her remaining inventory, she plans to sell the equipment at her store as well.

Albrecht says she hopes to have a storefront again one day.

“I just have to put faith — I have faith in myself that I can do this. I can bring this back.”

Carrie Rengers has been a reporter for almost three decades, including 16 years at The Wichita Eagle. Her Have You Heard? column of business scoops runs five days a week in The Eagle. If you have a tip, please e-mail or tweet her or call 316-268-6340.
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