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November 2004

The Andersons -
Two Generations of Success

by Joseph H. RADDER

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The smile on Greta Anderson's face says it all. She's so pleased and proud of her family's success, and she's very sure that her late husband Carl is smiling down on them as well.

Both Carl and Greta Anderson's parents came over to this country from Sweden at a very young age. They met in the Swedish Covenant Church in Buffalo and were soon married.

Years later, Carl and Greta would meet in the same church and be married there. Carl had earned a law degree at the University of Buffalo but never had a chance to practice. World War II was underway and Carl soon found himself in the Navy.

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Carl and Greta on their wedding day. Carl and Greta celebrating their 50th anniversary.
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Left to right: Holly, Ann, Keith, Jack and Nels, 1958.


Carl was stationed in New York City, and so, when he was honorably discharged, it was natural for Carl and Greta to settle there.

Again, their fate would be directed in their church. A fellow church member, Charlie Erickson, was manufacturing a new and exciting product, the frozen custard machine. He suggested to Carl and Greta that they open a stand in New York. So, after thinking and praying about it, they decided to take his advice in 1946 and try it for a year or so. Grandpa Anderson was more than willing to help out with the seed money, which, Greta says, "he never expected to see again." Imagine his surprise, when a year or so later, Carl and Greta repaid him in full.

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Kenmore Avenue location, 1953. Sheridan Drive, Kenmore in 1957.

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Greta and Carl Anderson greeting customers at the Kenmore Avenue location in 1949.

Greta and Carl Anderson celebrating 50 years in business, 1996.

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Greta & Carl working at Sheridan Drive. Early days at Sheridan Drive.


The store was right next door to a movie theater on White Plains Boulevard in the Bronx, and from the start, did a thriving business.

After awhile, Carl's sister in Buffalo became very ill. "That made us realize," Greta remembered, "that life was too short to be so far away from home." And so, they sold the New York City store and moved back home to Buffalo in 1948. By then, they had become old hands at the frozen custard business and were excited about how the public had received the product.

They built a new store on Kenmore Avenue at the corner of Englewood. Looking back, Greta realizes, "that was one of the biggest mistakes of our lives. The mistake was building the store so close to the street, and while we had parking in the rear, it would have been much better up front. In other words, the Andersons learned early that Buffalo was not like New York. In New York, people walked everywhere. In Buffalo, they seldom went any distance without their cars.
   
"We were fortunate to find a buyer for the Kenmore Avenue property," Greta remembered, "and so we moved to Sheridan Drive in 1951." This time, a large parking lot was out front, a lot that's full of cars to this day. "The only mistake we made then was that we didn't buy that whole block starting at Belmont Drive."

Even though the store was open only in the warmer weather months, the hours were long and the work was hard. Even so, Carl and Greta were building a family. Their firstborn, Jack, now a pediatrician in Charlotte North Carolina, had been born in New York City in 1945. Their first Buffalo baby was Ann in 1952, who is now a psycho-therapist in Boston. Then came Nels in 1954, Holly in 1955, and Keith in 1957.

Of course, Nels, Holly, and Keith are in the business today, along with Kirk Wildermuth, Holly's husband, who came on board in 1982. As most of our readers know, Anderson's has grown from one custard stand to nine restaurants, serving delicious soups, sandwiches, and salads as well as ice cream and custard treats. Catering too is a big part of their business. And the best is yet to come. Plans to open smaller stores in smaller communities are well under way. Franchising is an important part of their business plan. Six of the current stores are company-owned, three are franchises.

All of Holly’s, Nels’s and Keith’s 10 children have carried on the tradition of working with Anderson’s.

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Inga, Torsten and Kiersten. Elaina, Inga, Anna and Carl Sr. in background.
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Carl and Kelsey. Kiersten, friend Kathleen, Kelsey, Darcy, Christian and Torsten at Anderson’s event.


New menu items have been added recently to meet the desires of guests. "Under Nels' tutelage, we expanded our salad line," Holly said. And homemade lo-carb ice cream is now available in four flavors. Smoothies, a mixture of fruits, frozen yogurt, and juices, also a recent addition, are very popular.

Of course, Anderson's famous roast beef sandwiches, the first item added to their menu which was not a frozen dessert, continue to be very popular. "We ship our roast beef, signature frozen custard and homemade ice cream all over the country," Holly said. "I get so excited when I get a call from Georgia,
California, Connecticut or Syracuse to mail out Anderson's products. We have, with help from willing recipients, established a system to preserve the quality of the food in mailing. Then, when you add memories, it makes a perfect package."

Memo to Snow-Birds: Why not have a Buffalo party this winter, with roast beef on weck from Anderson's, chicken wings from the Anchor Bar, and Anderson's frozen custard for dessert?

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Manager Tracy with Kiersten at the opening of Niagara Falls Blvd. location, 2001. Nels with Anderson’s catering.


Speaking of kummelweck rolls reminds us of something the family told us about their quality standards. Recently, their long-time supplier of rolls closed their Buffalo bakery, making late-bake deliveries impossible. "And so we shopped around," Keith said. The grueling process of finding a roll that was up to our standards was more difficult than we expected. We tried samples from four different bakeries before we settled on our new supplier, Costanza's." This is typical of Anderson's high quality standards. It's not unusual to find the entire family and executive staff involved in a taste-test in the conference room of their Williamsville office.

Is Greta Anderson still involved? "I take care of the flowers," she said smiling. And she can be very proud of what she's done to beautify Anderson's property. Most visitors to Anderson's restaurants agree that the flowers and landscaping are among the most beautiful in the area.

"I thank the Lord for my kids everyday," Greta said. "Without them this business couldn't exist as it does today."

The faith this family shares keeps shining through everything they say and do. For example, it is estimated by those who should know that no other company in Western New York contributes to as many worthy causes as do the Anderson's.

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Greta hanging out with family at Sheridan Drive, 1988.
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Cousins together, 1999. Family gathering at Main Street location, 1999.
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“Mom and her children” - 1999
Left to right: Kirk & Holly, Jack & Lorraine, Ann, Greta, Nels & Linda, Keith & Darcy.
Greta gets one last hug from her grandchildren before her return to her Florida home. Left to right: Greta hugged by Tim, Torsten, Christian, Anna, Kelsey and Elaina, 2004.


One wonders how they find time to do all they do. In addition to running the nine stores and the catering business, they put on the backyard barbecues all summer long with Channel 7, and they stage an annual pancake and ice cream breakfast . Proceeds benefit two local charities: Children's Miracle Network and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Erie County. Volunteers from Sam's Club assist the Andersons with this event. Other co-sponsors include M&T Bank, Simplot Curly Loops, Upstate Farms, Sysco, Sahlen's and Depew Dairy ("Triple Scoop" Breakfast sponsors), JH Dodman, Modern Disposal, PDI, and Dutch Treat ("Double Scoop " sponsors) and Campbell's, D7H Equipment, Ken's Dressings, McCullagh Coffee, Morgan Linen Services, Nog Ingredients, and Tarantino Foods ("Single Scoop" sponsors).

What makes it all come together so smoothly and successfully? All of the Andersons are quick to credit their associates, their six senior managers and thirty-six managers. In particular they mentioned Lisa Sorrentino, their director of marketing, who is responsible for all of the special events, and Robbie Eisenberger, who is director of purchasing and operations.

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Greta and Holly. Inga.


Little did Carl and Greta Anderson dream that one day their little business would grow into such a big business, and yet maintain all of the high standards and traditions that were established on White Plains Boulevard in the Bronx so many years ago.

Joseph H. Radder is a freelance writer for Living Prime Time.

 

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