Sweeter times: Winona used to be home to candy creators

2009-12-25T00:15:00Z Sweeter times: Winona used to be home to candy creatorsBy Nolan Rosenkrans | nolan.rosenkrans@lee.net Winona Daily News

The chocolate in Winona’s stockings likely came from far away, but if the candy is chewy — or gummy — there’s a good chance Winona had a hand in making it.

Winona once rivaled Hershey, Pa., as the U.S. candy capital. The names Ramer, Schuler and Brach were once synonymous with Winona candymaking. The Cherry Humps and chocolate factories may be gone, but Winona still plays a role in making America’s Christmas sweets.

A century ago, Second Street was Winona’s own Chocolate Avenue. Companies such as A.M. Ramer, Schuler, the Foss Candy Co. and the Winona Candy Co. all had stores and factories along the drag.

Some of the buildings — such as Winona Candy Co.’s at Lafayette Street or Schuler’s at Franklin Street — still stand, but candy and chocolate are no longer made there. Expansion took the Schuler company from Second Street in 1940 to 1000 W. Fifth St. By then, an economic depression, company acquisitions and the passage of time shuttered the doors to Winona’s other chocolate and candy factories.

But Schuler stayed strong for decades, pumping out the popular Cherry Humps and its sister brands. Made only in Winona, billions of the wrapped sweets traveled across America.

Locally owned Winona candymaking ended in 1971, when Schuler was bought by the Tennessee-based Brock Candy Co., which in turn was bought in 1994 by the similarly sounding Brach’s. Though the acquisitions ended Winona-based ownership, it again brought the town onto the national candy scene.

The last Cherry Hump was made in 1987, doomed by the death of mom-and-pop groceries. The plant at 1000 W. Fifth St. stayed in use though, focusing on Brock’s gummy and fruit snacks. A little more than two years ago, Brach’s Candy Co., by then owned by Swiss candymaker Barry Callebaut, was sold to Farley’s & Sathers.

The Round Lake, Minn., company — founded in 2002 and consisting of numerous storied candy companies bought or merged — is one of the biggest candy makers in the world.

Winona’s lone remaining candy factory still pumps out the goodies, manufacturing, packing and distributing for Farley’s & Sathers, which sells such well known brands as Trolli, Fruit Stripe, and Now and Later candies.

A long way from its heyday, Winona is still in the mix.

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