DUNMORE, Pa. — Gertrude Hawk is a household name in northeastern and central Pennsylvania, but an actual woman is behind the brand.
For Women's History Month, Newswatch 16's Lisa Washington spoke to one of the company's co-owners, the great-granddaughter of the chocolate icon.
"You take a deep breath and you just own it." Carolyn Hawk Horter describes what she does when she walks into the headquarters of Gertrude Hawk chocolates in Dunmore.
Carolyn is co-owner of the company and chair of the board. But perhaps most importantly, she's the great-granddaughter of the company's founder, Gertrude Hawk.
She said, "I'm proud to represent the fourth generation of our family owning this business. My great-grandmother started it in 1936, during the great depression."
Carolyn says her great-grandmother started the business not only because of her love of baking, but she needed to help her family.
"Her husband was not bringing in enough money, so she decided to supplement her family's income by starting to make chocolates in her kitchen," explained Carolyn.
At first, Gertrude Hawk sold her candy to others who needed to fundraise.
"She was helping a local church group raise funds, and so she would make chocolates in her kitchen, and they would sell them. And that today is one of our largest divisions. We still fundraise across the three states, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey," added Carolyn.
The early years brought some success for the small business, but it was a PennDOT project in the 1960s that would position the company for significant expansion. Gertrude Hawk's home was in the path of an interstate that would be built in Lackawanna County in the 1960s, Interstate 81.
"The Interstate 81 project came through her home in 1961, so we moved into our first real manufacturing facility and store. Before that, she would turn her dining room into a retail space during the holidays," said Carolyn.
Today, Gertrude Hawk consists of 37 retail stores.
Smidgens, chocolate bunnies during the Easter season, and Santas at Christmas are popular specialties.
The company's headquarters and a newly-built production facility remain in Dunmore.
Carolyn believes her great-grandmother would be proud of the progress.
"I think that she would be blown away. The fact that so many people order our chocolates on their phones or on the internet. She never lived to see that. I think she would be blown away."
As a child, Carolyn says she only knew Gertrude Hawk as her great-grandmother.
"She was just my grandmother, and it was just fun to visit her house. She lived above the production facility back when we were on drinker st. And we would go visit her; I lived a block away. We would push my brother in the stroller up the driveway. And we had wonderful times with her. She would give us cookies and ginger ale."
Today, she's proud to continue her legacy as a businesswoman.
"Gertrude Hawk, she didn't have more than a fifth-grade education. Her starting a business was just her using the best skills she had and leaning in at a moment that was critical for her family, doing the best she could for herself and her family."
A family continuing the legacy for 85 years and counting.