WIONNA — On Monday, employees at the Ferrara Candy Co. were told the Winona plant will close at the end of April, according to people who work at the plant or are associated with those who do.
The closing will affect 124 employees in Winona.
Company officials confirmed the closing in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
“Following a detailed review of our manufacturing capacities, we have determined to move our production capacity at our Winona, Minn., facility to our facility in Bellwood, Ill,” the statement read.
“Decisions that affect people are never easy, and this was not one we took lightly,” the statement continued. “We are committed to providing transition assistance and severance for affected Winona employees. Our employees impacted by this closure will have the opportunity to apply for positions with other Ferrara operations.”
The company announcement follows a Valentine’s Day fire at the plant, located at 1000 West Fifth St. The fire started in a piece of candy-making equipment, spread to the building and broke through the roof, causing extensive damage to the machinery and relatively minor damage to the building.
The Fifth Street manufacturing plant was built in 1940 by the SchulerCandy Co., makers of Cherry Humps. Since then, a variety of confections carrying the label of a succession of manufacturers have rolled off the production lines inside the sugar-white factory building.
In 1972, the SchulerCandy Co. became a subsidiary of BrockCandy Co., a family-owned firm based in Chattanooga, Tenn.
A major shift came in 1986 when Cherry Hump bars were discontinued and manufacturing shifted to a new, fruity taste from Germany — Gummi Bears. Long a favorite in Europe, they were a hit when they arrived on this side of the Atlantic and, in 1986, Winona became the country’s primary producer of fruit-flavored ursines.
The plant had new owners again in 1994 when Brach’s bought Brock’s. In 2007, Farley & Sathers, itself the product of the merger of several candy-makers in 2002, bought Brach’s and in 2012 merged with Ferrara Pan to form the Ferrara Candy Co.
With factories in Winona, Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee and Mexico, Ferrara manufactures and markets such childhood and movie-theater favorites as Lemonheads, Red Hots, Atomic Fireballs, Boston Baked Beans, Brach’s, Now and Later, Chuckle and more.
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