Margie’s Candies’ Peter George Poulos, third-generation keeper of the flame, dead at 86

He grew up in the ice cream shop and returned to run it when his mother died. Now Mr. Poulos’ son is taking over and doesn’t plan to change a thing.

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3-16-05 Peter Poulos and wife Christina, owners of Margie’s Candies on Armitage and Western in Chicago. The store sells all handmade goodies, and is currently owned by Peter Poulos, the grandson of the original owner, also named Peter Poulos. It has been in the Poulos family for 85 years.

Peter Poulos and wife, Christina, owners of Margie’s Candies, in 2005.

Sun-Times file

Peter George Poulos’ booth was in the back of Margie’s Candies. Table No. 10. It’s where he’d eat, work, chat with customers and, in recent years, occasionally catch a nap.

As a baby, Mr. Poulos slept among the toffee and fudge in a crib his parents brought in to the store.

Infant or aged, when his eyes opened from slumber, they saw essentially the same thing.

The shop is a near-perfect time capsule. It offers the same experience that Al Capone, Aretha Franklin and the Beatles (one of the Fab Four danced on a table) got when they walked through its doors.

Mr. Poulos, the third-generation owner of the fabled North Side confectionery and ice cream shop, died of cancer April 26 at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston. He was 86.

Margie’s Candies, 1960 N. Western Ave.

Margie’s Candies, 1960 N. Western Ave.

Sun-Times file

Mr. Poulos kept Margie’s Candies the way his mother, Margie, liked it.

As a boy, he was known as “Margie’s son” around the shop, where he’d mop the floor and clean sticky tables where he’d later open his school books.

Mr. Poulos’ father and grandfather opened the store in 1920 in a former bank building on Armitage and Western avenues in Bucktown and named it Security Sweet Shop.

Mr. Poulos’ parents met there. So, of course, milkshakes played a role in their courtship. When they got married, the business was renamed in honor of the 18-year-old bride.

Peter George Poulos with his mother, Margie.

Peter George Poulos with his mother, Margie.

Provided

Mr. Poulos was a teenager in 1954 when his father — World War II veteran George Poulos — died of an ulcer, and his mother took the reins. She oversaw the daily production in the basement of candy and chocolate, including the store’s most popular offering, the Terrapin. That was a chocolate-covered caramel-and-pecan treat she named for a type of turtle because “Turtle” already was trademarked by Fannie May.

Margie’s Candies, 1960 N. Western Ave.

Margie’s Candies, 1960 N. Western Ave.

Sun-Times file

In 1995, Mr. Poulos’ mother died from a heart attack after she seeing a car accident outside her store.

Mr. Poulos, who’d become a podiatrist after attending the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, then found himself in charge, according to family. He moved his podiatry practice to an office across the street from Margie’s and for several years juggled operating his medical practice and running Margie’s. After seeing patients, he’d leave his office, always in black pants, a shirt and a tie, wearing a Mickey Mouse wristwatch, and head to work at Margie’s.

Mr. Poulos’ wife, Christina, who died in 2009, helped run the store.

Peter George Poulos

Peter George Poulos

Sun-Times file

Not long after the couple took charge, their son, George, came along, and history began to repeat itself.

“There’s pictures of me as a kid sleeping in the booths, running around the store and interacting with employees who worked there then and still work there now,” said George Poulos, 27, who grew up in Rogers Park and graduated from Loyola Academy.

Mr. Poulos died unexpectedly. Hours earlier, he’d been on the phone to check in with employees at Margie’s, making sure orders were placed, his son said.

Kids enjoy some ice cream at Margie’s Candies.

Kids enjoy some ice cream at Margie’s Candies.

Sun-Times file

“I’m going to take over,” George Poulos said. “We plan on keeping everything the same, no changes.”

That includes maintaining Margie’s time-honored agreement with young ice cream lovers of rewarding report card A’s with a free cone. Improvement from C’s to A’s gets them a banana split.

As a kid, young George worked weekends at Margie’s, busing tables and making fudge.

“I’d help add flavors and mix the ingredients,” he said. “There’s a good amount of steps. You don’t want to mess it up. I had to get my measurements correct. It’s all done by hand. My dad was very loving. If I made a mistake, we’d start over. It was always nice being able to tell people we owned Margie’s and then hear people tell their own stories about going there.

“When I was a kid I ate way too much ice cream and candy. Now, I don’t eat that stuff. But my wife loves it.”

A strawberry soda toped with fresh whipped cream being served up at Margie’s Candies.

A strawberry soda topped with fresh whipped cream is served up at Margie’s Candies.

Sun-Times file

Services have been held.

Mr. Poulos loved fishing at Belmont Harbor and spending time with his infant grandson.

“I’m happy he got to meet his grandson,” George Poulos said of his 5-month-old. “He liked hearing him babble. I wish he could be here longer to watch him grow.”

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