After moving to Poland, Wedel opened a confectioner’s shop and a craft workshop at Miodowa Street in Warsaw. He and his wife Karolina served drinking chocolate, sweet delicacies, as well as pharmaceutical products: malt syrup, cough caramels and peppermint pastilles. Their shop quickly gained popularity, as the local community was eager to taste new and appealing flavors. Day by day the shop became more popular, subsequently choosing to expand the manufacturing of quality chocolate. Karol Wedel excelled at making chocolates, which was a rare talent in Poland. He has brought the know-how from Germany and recognized that it was an opportunity to start a successful business.
In 1841 Karolina Wedel gave birth to Emil. Growing up, Emil worked in the shop and eventually left Warsaw to travel to Western Europe. He learned and gained experience in various factories to prepare himself to finally inherit his father’s business. Having practiced in the confectionery art in Paris for two years and run his father’s company since 1865, Emil received the Wedel company as a wedding gift from his parents in 1871.
Immediately after receiving the company Emil moved the factory to a tenement at Szpitalna Street in Warsaw, where a brand shop and an E.Wedel Chocolate Café ”Staroświecki Sklep” (Old-fashioned Shop) are still located to this day. Emil Wedel passed away in 1919, however his descendant Jan Wedel continued to run the business and he was the last member of the Wedel family to own the company. In 1934, during the time of the Great Depression, Jan Wedel opened a second factory in Praga, one of the most modern in the Second Polish Republic. The company was one of the first in Europe to introduce generous social welfare policies and to have its own creche, kindergarten, hospital and cafeteria. On top of that the management rewarded its best employees with no-interest housing loans. The company managed to continue business during the first few years of the war; it also started producing essential food such as bread for the starving and was the place of the underground schools. Even though the Wedel family had German roots, they refused to collaborate with the invaders. Their stance brought about the persecution of their employees by the Nazis. During the Warsaw Uprising the company along with most other buildings in Warsaw were destroyed. Wedel rebuilt it but soon after the communist government nationalized the company. Unfortunately, after it was privatized in 1989 the firm was never returned to the Wedel family. About 10% of the products are exported, primarily to the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.
The flagship products, which are mandatory to sample for those visiting Poland date back to the very beginning of Karol Wedel’s sweet shop; Ptasie Mleczko (Bird’s Milk) and Wedel Cake. It is said that there isn’t a Pole who has never tried or at least heard of them. These traditional recipes date back to the 1930s.
Author: Anna Jabłońska