By Steve Svetovich
Tis’ the season to buy chocolates, and this has been a way of life for Dunmore’s Dave Hawk and his family for many decades.
That is making and selling those chocolates.
Dave Hawk’s grandmother started the Gertrude Hawk business as a paid hobby in 1936.
“It all started in my grandmother’s home at her dining room table,” said Dave Hawk, 71.
“She made the candy and chocolates and molasses coconut–a big item in those days–at her dining room table. Her house was open for business during holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
“Gertrude Hawk became a full-fledged business in 1946 after my dad, Elmer Hawk, returned home to Dunmore from World War II where he was a POW for 17 months in Austria. He was owed half of his back pay from those 17 months and he put it into the business.”
Hawk, the third of a fourth generation owner and operator of the business, is now semi-retired.
“My dad asked me to become his partner in 1971,” said Hawk, a polite, soft-spoken gentleman. “It was a terrific partnership that lasted for 21 years until he sold me the business in 1992. My dad died in 2013. Now I have my four children run the business.” His children took over the business a year ago, he says.
His son Paul Hawk is current owner. Daughter Jennifer Hawk is vice president of IT and purchasing. Son Patrick Hawk is vice president of special business. Daughter Carolyn Harter is chairman of the board.
Hawk remains very active as chairman of the board for the Hawk Family Foundation. He is also founder and chairman of the board for the Nativity Miguel School at Marywood University. “The school is based on the Nativity model of education,” said Hawk. “There are about 63 students enrolled from fifth to eighth grade. It is tuition-free, but you have to get accepted. Many of the students go on to receive scholarships from Holy Cross or Scranton Prep High Schools.”
Hawk is married to the former Ann Walsh. The couple met at the local Penn State campus where Dave was studying for an associate’s degree in business. “It was love at first sight.”
The couple has 12 grandchildren. Each of the Hawk couple’s children have three kids.
Hawk is a North Pocono graduate, but has lived in Dunmore with his wife for the past 50 years.
The original Gertrude Hawk business location was at 1325 Drinker St., Dunmore.
Hawk said his family runs 45 Gertrude Hawk stores at present. There are 14 located in Northeast PA, including the one at Keystone Industrial Park. All of the stores are located within a 156 mile radius from Dunmore. Some of the stores are in New Jersey and parts of New York State such as Binghamton and Syracuse.
“We’ve had a dynamic year with the business,” said Hawk. “Business is growing like crazy. We never knew it would be like this. We developed a unique product.
“However, the most important thing is not about the money exchanged. It’s about how you treat people. It’s about treating people well. It’s about treating the customers and also the people who work for you well. You need to instill a feeling of trust, especially in this community.”
Hawk said fund-raising has become a huge part of the business. He said a piece of the Gertrude Hawk business was sold five years ago.
“We try to come up with the right blend of cocoa for our chocolates,” said Hawk. “We work hard at it. Molasses coconut was big in my grandmother’s day. Times change and people’s tastes change. You have to be able to adjust to those changes. Cocoa over the years changes, so we have to search for places for that flavor.
“We are always trying to keep up with food trends and what people like. Chocolate products have to be responsive to changes in taste. Coconut was the number one seller during my grandmother’s time.”