102 Walnut’s Early Beginnings
The Ramer Candy Company building at 102 Walnut Street was constructed ca. 1870 and was originally known as the “Erpelding Block.” According to historic newspaper articles, the Erpelding Block, along with the Mues Block, were described “as being the most prominent among the business structures. Several others have been erected…but the two named stand conspicuous, by reason of their size and striking architectural beauty.” The primary business operating in the building between 1873 and 1885 was the Charles Miller Grocery. The grocery began as an ice operation, eventually adding “wines and liquors, all kinds of cheese, oysters, and Milwaukee Lager Beer.” The business grew so much that, by 1885, Miller constructed a new building to house his business and left the Erpelding Block. For the next twenty years, the building housed a number of different businesses, ranging from saloons and meat markets, to grain dealers and grain mills. For the life of the building, there have been residential tenants on the second and third floors.
The next major tenant to influence the local economy was the Ramer Candy Company. The business began in 1894 as a small operation and, by 1902, it had thirty-five employees and planned to add ten more girls from a nearby town. In 1903, Mr. Ramer turned down offers from Chicago and Cleveland to relocate the business as a result of his “unbounded faith in the city of Winona.” Instead, he moved his operation to the Erpelding Block. The company began operations in the first two bays and occupied all three floors. In 1906 Ramer constructed a considerable expansion to the rear of the building to further increase operations; the following spring he altered the mansard roof into a flat roof to match the addition. By 1910 Ramer Candy occupied Bays 1-3 from west to east, with Koch Vegetable Tea Company in Bay 4. In 1913, Ramer completed another large addition to the building, likely adding the third floor to the Bay 4. A newspaper article states that Ramer Candy was one of the two major candy producers within Winona and was a regional distributor with product shipping widely, from Chicago to Pittsburgh. Ramer Candy Company occupied the building until January 1, 1920 when it moved operation to Grove and Olive Streets in St. Paul, Minnesota.