Edna Rudell, who began selling homemade chocolate bunnies outside the Northeast Market and went on to co-own Fallston's Log Cabin Chocolates, died of congestive heart failure March 6 at Gilchrist Hospice Care. The Jacksonville resident was 90.
Born Edna Rose Himler, she was the daughter of John Himler, a city police officer, and Sara McCleester, who died when Mrs. Rudell was very young. She was placed in an orphanage at age 2 and remained there until her father remarried.
"My mother was a survivor," said her daughter, Annette Armstrong.
Mrs. Rudell completed the ninth grade in city public schools and then took a job ironing shirts for 2 cents apiece at a commercial laundry. When she was 18, she married Bernard Francis Rudell, a watchmaker who lived in East Baltimore and had shops on Calvert Street near Mercy Hospital and in Northeast Baltimore.
The coupled lived in the 2600 block of E. Hoffman St. When her husband's eyesight began to fail and hurt his ability to repair timepieces, he chose to start making candy, using metal molds to make hollow chocolate bunnies and Scottie dogs. They had no retail shop, so Mrs. Rudell set up sawhorses and made temporary tables outside a Read's drugstore on East Monument Street near the Northeast Market. They found they could make good money from the enterprise.
"My brother and I would hand out circulars in the neighborhood to drum up some business," said her daughter, who lives in Jacksonville.
She said that candy-making was a seasonal business for the family.
"My father made chocolate from September through Mother's Day, and Easter was our busy season. Easter was like our Christmas. That was when the money came in," said her daughter. "In the summer, my father farmed and my mother peeled the tomatoes and put them up in Mason jars. They took the money from one season and put it away to buy the chocolate, nuts and supplies for the next."
After a while, Mrs. Rudell gave up selling from outdoor tables on Northeast Baltimore street corners.
They rented a business place on East Monument next door to Oktavek's art shop, her daughter said. "She ran the store and later they had another in Waverly on Gorsuch Avenue. They named it Edna's Homemade Chocolates," she said.
She said her mother and father used good-quality chocolate and other ingredients. "They hardly did any advertising," she said. "Their customers found their quality was good and their prices were right."
She said that though small, they competed with other Baltimore candy firms, including Martha Washington, Virginia Dare and Log Cabin, a firm they later acquired, along with its recipe for the nougat pecan roll and Easter egg.
About 1952, they relocated the business to the Loch Ridge Shopping Center in the then-new suburb of Baynesville on Amuskai Road. They added a small conveyor belt to make hand-dipped chocolates and sold ice cream, which Mrs. Rudell dipped, and snowballs. Her husband made the flavors.
They also began developing relationships with Scout troops, which would sell their homemade candy door to door as a fundraiser to finance camping expeditions.
The business "outgrew the Loch Ridge place fast because of the Scouts, schools and church fundraising orders," said her son, Richard Rudell, who is the chief candy maker in the family business. "My mother loved the business. She worked seven days a week, except for the summer, which she took off."
Mrs. Rudell and her husband wanted to stop paying rent so they bought property on Belair Road in Fallston for $5,000 and rented a dump truck to level out the property in 1961.
The couple expanded their wholesale line to Mars Markets. In the 1980s, they made fudge that was sold, not always under their name, at four candy shops along the Wildwood, N.J., boardwalk.
After the death of her husband in 1992, she worked alongside her son Richard, a Baldwin resident. In her free time, she played bingo at the Fullerton firehouse and St. Mary's Church in Pylesville.
Mrs. Rudell continued to work seven days a week and waited on customers until Dec. 20 of last year, her daughter said. She drove home and made a crab cake dinner for family members. She suffered a fall that evening and could not return to her shop.
Services are private.
In addition to her daughter and son, survivors include two other sons, Paul Rudell of Jacksonville and Bernard Rudell of Lusby; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun