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Kansas City has quite the sweet tooth. Surprised? Sure, Kansas City is known worldwide for its hickory-smoked, mouthwatering barbecue, but even a meat-and-potato town like KC gets a serious chocolate craving every now and then. From the biggest name in boxed chocolates to a designer of edible art, here’s a look at eight candy makers who call Kansas City their home sweet home.
www.russellstover.comRussell Stover Candies is one of the most recognizable names in the candy business. In fact, the company is the third-largest chocolate manufacturer in America and the largest producer of boxed and sugar-free chocolate. When it comes to Valentine’ Day, the Russell Stover name is on seven of the 10 bestselling heart-shaped chocolate boxes in America.
The company originally opened in 1923 as Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies in Denver. A year later the Stovers opened five stores in Denver, along with shops in Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha and Lincoln, Neb. With their business rapidly expanding, the Stovers opened their first factory in Kansas City in 1928. And finally in 1932, Russell Stover relocated its entire company operations to KC. The company then changed its name to Russell Stover Candies in 1943 and continued to expand throughout the nation.
While the company grew, it never forgot the old-fashioned way of making candy that helped launch the Stover empire. Even today, candies are still made by a “batch process” rather than in bulk. Most processes are still done by hand, much as they were when Claire started making the candy in her home, causing the company to hand-dip more than 25 million pieces of candy each year.
Candy from the company’s three brands—Russell Stover, Whitman’s and Pangburn’s—may be found at more than 50 company-owned retail shops as well as thousands of venues throughout North America and in 20 countries around the world.
Gourmet chocolate with touches of Spanish saffron, French lavender and fresh rosemary is only the start of what you’ll find at Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate. His whimsical designs, use of color and creative flavors will surprise and delight even the most experienced of chocoholics. Just ask Food & Wine; last year the magazine referred to Elbow’s “No. 6 Dark Rocks” as its favorite chocolate bar in America.
Elbow was born and raised in the Kansas City area. After an early career as a pasty chef in many four-star restaurants in Kansas City and Las Vegas, Elbow started his own chocolate business in 2003. His company specializes in uniquely flavored and designed, handmade chocolates and truffles using 100% single-bean chocolate from Venezuela. His goal: create some of the most uniquely styled and flavored chocolates that you will ever experience.
You’ll find Elbow’s artistic creations at the company’s two retail stores (1819 McGee Street in Kansas City, and 401 Hayes Street in San Francisco), as well as Dean and Deluca, Halls Kansas City and fine-chocolate retailers nationwide.
Step into André’s Confiserie Suisse and you will feel as if you have been transported to an old European sweets shop. And that was just the intention of Chef André Bollier. André opened his first confectionary shop in Kansas City in 1955, shortly after operating a store and pastry shop in his native Switzerland. André’s high-end, preservative-free traditional sweets, unique cakes, marshmallow balls, goodies and (of course) chocolate have earned the company significant respect in the chocolate world.
André’s now operates three locations: one in Denver and two in the metro: 5108 Main Street in Kansas City, Mo., and 4929 W. 119th Street in Overland Park, Kan. Both Kansas City locations offer a tea room that serves traditional Swiss lunches. While you’re visiting, be sure to check out the Kansas City landmarks gift pack—a tasty collection of 12 foil-wrapped chocolates, each imprinted with the design of a local icon, such as the Country Club Plaza, Liberty Memorial and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Crown Center, home to Hallmark Cards, is also the address for another popular local product—Kansas City Fudge. This velvety, handmade confection—now available in 30 different flavors—is available exclusively from Chip’s Chocolate Factory. The store opened in Crown Center Shops in 1983 and still produces 95% of its products on-site straight from its demonstration kitchen. Over the years, the factory has expanded its offerings to include daily tours, cotton candy, 14 flavors of sugar-free candy plus more than 120 goodies made with premium imported Swiss chocolate.
Pick up Kansas City Fudge, or any of the company’s many other confections, at Chip’s in Crown Center. You can also order online at www.chipschocolatefactory.com.
Fun shapes and figures including calculators, TV remotes, toothbrushes, golf balls and shot glasses have become the specialty of Annedore’s Fine Chocolates Ltd. The chocolate company opened in March 1988 and features homemade semi-sweet, milk and white chocolates. Annedore's has since expanded to add Annedore's Fine Coffees, featuring their signature hot chocolate made with their own chocolate straight from the chocolate production line, as well as a dessert, pastry and sandwich shop.
Although you’ll find Annedore’s fun chocolate shapes throughout the year, the company is best known for its foil-wrapped, solid-chocolate “light bulbs”—made to resemble the festive lights that adorn the Country Club Plaza each holiday season. Find Annedore’s chocolates at the company’s store at 106 E. 43rd St., at Best of Kansas City shops throughout the metro or online.
Bogdon’s Candy Reception Sticks were created in Kansas City in 1945 after a bride wanted a special treat for her guests and asked Walter Bogdon, an area candy maker, to help out. The result was a thinly rolled, hard, flavored candy stick hand-dipped in bittersweet chocolate. The sweet creation was instantly popular, and Mr. Bogdon’s customers began requesting them by the crate load.
Today, Bogdon Candy Company remains a family-owned business, with over three generations of Bogdon's involved in making fine confections in the same delicious way as Walter did more than 50 years ago–over an open fire, one batch at a time.
The Reception Sticks are sold around the world by the company and have become so popular that the company makes, sells and ships more than 100 million every year. And, although the company has announced plans to relocate to New York, Bogdon’s sweet treats will still be remembered for their Kansas City roots. Pick up Reception Sticks at metro-area Best of Kansas City stores.
The third-oldest candy bar in the United States, the Cherry Mash, is produced in nearby St. Joseph, Mo., by the Chase Candy Company (only the Hershey bar and the Goo Goo Cluster have been produced longer). The Cherry Mash—made of crushed maraschino cherries covered with peanuts and chocolate—has been a smash in the Midwest since 1918, and is the bestselling candy bar of its kind in the nation according to the company.
The Chase Candy Company was founded in 1876 by George Washington Chase, a St. Joseph doctor looking to make some extra cash by producing candy on the side. The almost immediate success of his company soon forced the entire Chase family into the candy business.
Through the years, the company has made a variety of candy including Mallo Milk, Tween Meals and Chasenut Bars. Today, the Chase Candy Company makes peanut brittle and coconut candies, but their most famous product is still the Cherry Mash. The bar is available for purchase primarily at major Midwest retailers, online at www.cherrymash.com or by calling 800-786-1625.
Originally created by accident, Valomilk candy cups have been oozing down chins since 1931. Valomilk is owned by Russell Sifers Candy Company, a six-generation, family-owned company that has been around since 1903. The company originally manufactured penny candy and nickel candy bars. That is, until a drunken candy maker named Tommy got a little carried away with the vanilla while making penny marshmallows and ruined a batch (Tommy got drunk off of the vanilla, which in those days had a high alcohol content). Instead of setting, the marshmallow remained runny. Harry Sifers, a second-generation candy man, dipped scoops of the runny marshmallow into a few chocolate cups. And voila, Valomilk was created!
The name Valomilk is derived from “V” for vanilla, “alo” from marshmallow and “milk” to describe the creamy center. The company was sold in 1970 and closed for business in 1981. In 1985, Russell Sifers and his family re-opened the factory in Merriam, Kan., and Valomilks were soon back on the shelves of Kansas City-area stores by 1987. Today, Russell’s son carries on the family business. Valomilk is the only candy the company produces, and is still made by hand—one batch at a time, using the original recipe and most of the original equipment. You can find Valomilks at Cracker Barrel restaurants nationwide, area grocers or any Best of Kansas City store.