This story begins in Connellsville, one day in May 1930. Two friends, who had just graduated from high school, wanted to go into business together. Gene Madigan and his friend, whose nickname was Boots, started the business. They went to all the chamber of commerces in the area. They found that Charleroi was the best business area per capita. Charleroi was even better than Washington, Pennsylvania, which was the County Seat.
They found a rental beside the Coyle Theater. They started to sell popcorn and salted peanuts. They named the business Gene & Boots. Finding that people stopped by after the movies, they began selling soft drinks. Next, they sold ice cream and sodas.
During the early years, Boots left for the service, thinking he would like to travel. This brought Gene’s parents in to help run the business. Pop Madigan, who built the concrete roads in Connellsville before the depression, was much in need of work. He found that a new product called chocolate bars, were coming on the market. He would tinker with melting chocolate and covering what he made called brittle. He thought something like the heath bar covered with chocolate would be tasty. He tried popcorn, no luck. He tried Spanish peanuts (very good). This brought all the chocolate covered nuts, next came chocolate covered fruits, and then soft centers……. Now the business was more than just supplying the theater traffic, it was following the seasons, such as Easter and Christmas. This being a very ethnic area, chocolate fruit & nut were all the rage.
Gene & Boots uses just the very best: Hawaiian Pineapple, Maraschino Cherries, and all the fancy nuts, like Almonds, Brazils, English Walnuts, Pecans, Macadamia Nuts, Pistachio Nuts, and last of all Filberts.
To this day most of the early formulas are still in use. Some new items like hollow, solid rabbits, and the chocolate baskets packed with all the hand-dipped candies have been introduced.
Gene & Boots Candies is now in the third generation of the Madigan family, and that would be Eric Ferguson, grandson of Margaruitte Madigan Ferguson (sister of Gene Madigan).