80-year-old Candy Castle still popular with kids

Photos courtesy Santa's Candy Castle
This historical photo shows the exterior of Santa's Candy Castle in 1930s. The Candy Castle’s 80th anniversary celebration is being held today from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

By WYATT STAYNER
wstayner@dcherald.com

SANTA CLAUS — Santa's Candy Castle turns 80 today, but it’s still popular with the youth.

Kevin Klosowski, a co-owner of the Candy Castle, said that since he and his family reopened the castle about 10 years ago, his mission has been to balance the brick building’s rich history with innovative and interactive ideas that make it appealing to kids.

“There’s definitely people that remember the beginnings of the castle,” Klosowski said, “but there’s also others who are just discovering it for the first time.”

The Candy Castle’s 80th anniversary celebration is being held today from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and will feature sales such as 80-cent specials and 80 percent off select store items. Those promotional deals harken back to the castle’s origins when it opened in 1935 and became the first building in Santa Claus Town, the nation’s first themed attraction.

This color photo of the rotunda of Santa's Candy Castle appeared in a national advertisting campaign for Armstrong's custom linoleum floors in the 1930's.

At that time, Santa Claus Town provided a form of cheap entertainment for kids during the Great Depression. Then, the town’s Toy Village and Santa Workshop had no items available for sale, free admission and free toys to play with.

While times have changed, Klosowski said he still looks for a balanced business that is profitable, but also available to everyone. For that, the Candy Castle throws events like their Christmas season Chestnut Roasting shindig that is free to the public and provides an interactive and educational experience.

They’ve also held a free “Frozen” day where mascots from the 2013 Disney film were able to interact with children.

“We’ve tried to maintain that original concept of being open and accessible to everyone,” Klosowski said. “Anytime you can get kids involved physically for something they are going to take more of an interest in it.”  

Klosowski, who is originally from Chicago, noted that while Santa Claus is relatively small (about 2,500 people), the town still exhibits a spirit that matches its cheery name. That’s how the Spencer County town has found itself ranked as a top Christmas destination by national news outlets such as CNN. The town even has its own nine-mile-long Christmas Lake Village Festival of Lights show, which takes you on a tour of the residents’ Christmas displays. 

Santa Claus greeted guests in front of the Buddy L Truck Building in the Toy Village in the 1930s. The Toy Village was part of Santa Claus Town, the themed attraction that included Santa's Candy Castle.

“There is kind of a sense that each and every resident is an ambassador for our town,” Klosowski said.  

That sense of town pride runs through Klosowski’s household as well. He owns the castle with his wife Diane. Their two sons, Tom, 13, Tyler, 10, and 15-year-old daughter Nicole, are instrumental in keeping the store running optimally.

Tom, who’s the outdoorsy one of the bunch, has taken over some of the fire and chestnut roasting duties for their chestnut roasting event. Nicole has become a big part of the behind-the-scenes work done at Candy Castle, helping with order and drink preparations. And Tyler, who wasn’t born when Klosowski acquired the castle in 2005, has become the inventory boss of the castle’s immense PEZ selection, alerting Klosowski on the newest PEZ releases.

Today’s anniversary at the store, 15499 North State Road 245, is a good time to look back at the castle’s history, but Klosowski noted he’s just as excited and hopeful the castle will continue to thrive for another 80 years. With a little help from his kids, that just might be possible. 
 
“It’s really (neat) to see them use their interests to help the family business,” Klosowski said.  

Santa's Shooting Gallery, sponsored by Daisy Air Rifles, was one of the many buildings in the Toy Village portion of Santa Claus Town where children could have a Christmas morning experience playing with all the popular toys of the day. During the Great Depression there was no admission and nothing was for sale.

            




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