Group that serves developmentally disabled buys iconic Maurie’s sweet shop

By Holly Eitenmiller For Chronicle Media

The iconic sign that donned the front of Maurie’s of Pekin shop since the 1940s will be moved to the new location in Eureka, pending approval of the city for variance. (Photo courtesy of ADDWC)

There’s a sweet deal in the works for the intellectually disabled and the communities they serve in Woodford County through their recycling program.

In September, the Association for the Developmentally Disabled of Woodford County, ADDWC, finalized the purchase of Maurie’s of Pekin, the iconic candy store that began in the 1940s. Karen Irons put the store up for sale in January due to declining health.

“The purchase of Maurie’s is done, and we actually had all of the equipment and recipes in our hands Oct. 8,” ADDWC President Keith McArdle said. “The biggest things for folks is the homemade fudge, caramel corn, cheese corn and caramel apples” and the famous Maurie’s sign.

In recent years, the aging sign was brought indoors for display in Pekin. Though it’s in desperate need of restoration, the sign is at the ADDWC building on Moody Street in Eureka.

“A lot of people have said, ‘Are you going to take the sign? That’s part of Pekin,’” McArdle said. “Really, it’s a part of Maurie’s and we’d like to get it in perfect shape. It’s a seven-by-seven-foot sign, so we’ll need to work with the City of Eureka for a variance.”

If the city council gives its approval, and if restoration goes well, the vintage red-and-white sign will be installed at 116 N. Main St., across from the Woodford County courthouse, the former location of Peking Garden. ADDWC will close on the building Oct.  21.

“On a whim, I reached out when Maurie’s announced they were done, and asked for a purchase price. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of interest out there for buyers, and we thought it would be a perfect fit for our values and our mission statement,” McArdle said. “It’s clearly a business that can give our workers really meaningful work.”

McArdle said the people who run ADDWC have been brainstorming for a few years on ways to come up with work and funding for their disabled clients. There are three group homes in Eureka where 16 people are provided 24-hour support, and ADDWC serves a total of 30 intellectually disabled adults in the county.

ADDWC began in the 1950s to help disabled children, and evolved into an adult-based service by 1987. Primarily, the organization provides recycling services to Woodford County, but McArdle said the recycling industry is in a rut, and, last year, ADDWC suffered a $71,000 loss from their recycling business.

“We want to keep it up and running in its current format. We’ve been recycling for many, many years, and the community doesn’t want to give it up,” he explained. “It’s a way for our clients to have the kind of meaningful work they want and need for themselves.”

Recycling materials are collected by ADDWC trucks at least once a week from El Paso, Minonk, Goodfield and Washburn. There also is a drop-off site at the building on Moody, where workers sort and bale the materials, then send them to Midwest Fiber in Bloomington.

But there’s a growing recycling crisis, and turmoil in the global scrap market has caused municipalities nationwide to shutter curbside recycling programs. The benefits for ADDWC clients and the community still outweigh the losses, McArdle said, and Maurie’s just might save the recycling program.

Maurie’s will also provide another avenue for adults with intellectual disabilities to have fulfilling work in the community.

“Our clients will really enjoy making candies and popcorn and caramel apples … the recipes everyone knows and loves, and it will be good for them to engage with the community,” McArdle said. “They’re more like us than they are different from us.”

Maurie’s is expected to open just in time for the Christmas holidays. Anyone wishing to make a donation to ADDWC can do so by visiting the organization’s Facebook page, “ADDWC”, which features a donation button. Donations by check may be mailed to their office at 200 Moody St., Eureka, Illinois, 61530.