Thumbing (digitally — although thumbs are digits, too, one supposes) through the 1909 Troy City Directory, we ran across this ad for Wagar’s Confectionery, which sounded vaguely familiar despite its way-backness. Turns out there’s a reason.
At this time, the name of D. Lester Sharp was attached to Wagar’s Confectionery, “Manufacturer of Absolutely Pure Confectionery and Ice Cream,” both wholesale and retail, and they were located at 99-101 Congress St. (Today we know the building as Manory’s Restaurant.) But D. Lester was neither the first nor last word in the Wagar’s story, and thankfully, in 1926 the company took out a verbose and only mildly hyperbolic full-page ad in the Troy Times in order to make “The Most Important Announcement Ever Made By An Ice Cream Manufacturer.”
“We find the public wants a richer ice cream, an ice cream containing more butterfat. Wagar’s promise in their new high quality ice cream to satisfy the most discriminating in this respect. The cost of the extra amount of heavy cream we are going to use this year in our product would allow a person to live most comfortable on the interest of it.” Forgive our failure to follow their excessive capitalization; they didn’t know it was rude.
Proudly proclaiming their intent to make a higher quality ice cream — nay, a “SCIENTIFICALLY DEVELOPED FOOD” — the ad also gave us some of the company history.
“Mr. W.S. Wagar came to Troy forty years ago with a fifteen quart freezer, the same freezer he had assisted his father with so many times in making ice cream for Sunday School picnics, etc., at West Sand Lake. It was here he conceived the idea that by coming to Troy and making the same kind of ice cream he could succeed. By hard work and long hours after coming to Troy he was able to make 100 quarts of ice cream a day, with this old freezer.
“Thirty-two years of his life he devoted to his own retail stores, his success in this business is to [sic] well known to go into details. Eight years ago in a very limited way he entered the wholesale field, making ice cream for fifteen other confectionery stores. At this time he was able to freeze ice cream at the rate of 800 quarts a day. And from this modest start eight years ago his business has grown until today in one of the most modern factories in the World Wagar’s are able to freeze ice cream at the rate of 12,000 quarts a day, and with reserve capacity for almost double this amount. Such growth as we have enjoyed during the past eight years is, you will admit, phenomenal. We believe it because we have always been more concerned about the QUALITY of our cream than the extra profit we might derive from an inferior product.”
That we have an ad right in front of us saying Wagar’s was wholesaling in 1909 we shall choose to ignore; for all we know that was wishful thinking. While Wagar’s had several locations, one well-known location was in the Ilium Building at the corner of Fourth and Fulton streets, long-time home of the Night Owl News. The location of their modern sunlit factory, which was under the ownership of Winfield S. and Mrs. Mary E. Wagar in 1926, was 553-557 Federal Street. (Remarkably, no old buildings stand in that old section of Troy, straight off the Green Island Bridge.)
But even that didn’t seem like all there was to the Wagar’s story; the name sounded too familiar. It turns out, there was another outfit by the name of Wagar’s Confectionery that started up in Lake George in 1978 and lasted until 2004, founded by Malcolm Laustrup, Sr., the grandson of Winfield Wagar. (An appreciation of Mr. Laustrup appears here.)