Candy Rama in Pittsburgh Shuts its Doors!
On 1 September 2005, a Pittsburgh candy institution closed it’s doors after many years of providing, or attempting to provide, Pittsburgh with wholesale candy. They also owned, at one point, three retail stores with one of them being sold to McKeesport Candy Co., in the 70′s.
As the saying goes, “such is life” and we surely wish them well…
Below is an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review about their history and, surprisingly, OURS!
IT”S A SOUR ENDING FOR CANDY COMPANY
By Michael Yeomans
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
It’s a bittersweet day in the Benacquista and Pearson families — operators of the Downtown Candy-Rama stores for 53 years.
The company’s Strip District wholesale warehouse closes today, and come Tuesday, the two Downtown stores will be operated by new owners, but still under the Candy-Rama name.
Benacquista said accountants for the firm — which he operates along with his brother-in-law Bill Pearson and sister Marian Pearson — said the closing is something they should have done “at least a year ago.”
But the decision to leave their life’s work was too hard at the time.
The continued decline of candy sales both at the stores and at the warehouse, however, finally forced their hand.
With none of his children or grandchildren interested in the business and with his sister not having children, Benacquista said they decided to just close the wholesale business, while turning over the leases to the Downtown stores — one in the Clark Building on Liberty Avenue and the other on Fifth Avenue near Market Square — to another party that he declined to name.
The company previously operated a store at Fifth and Wood Street that closed two years ago.
“It’s a sad day for us,” he said. “But our business has been in a steady decline with what’s happening Downtown. And the wholesale business has gone to pot, mainly because of the big discounters.”
Benacquista said Candy-Rama once served all the Giant Eagle and Thrift Drug stores with loose “pick and mix” candy in bins, like the ones at their Downtown stores, that had to be weighed and put in paper bags.
They also supplied mom-and-pop corner stores. But those stores have either closed or have gone to discount club stores like Sam’s Club and Costco, which he said can sell at prices below what he pays to candy manufacturers.
The wholesale business has seen its volume decline by more than 50 percent from its peak, Benacquista said.
Once employing 23 people, most recently the company employed 13, four of whom have been offered jobs by the new operators.
Jon H. Prince, owner of McKeesport Candy Co., said the Benacquistas and Pearsons were “great retailers and great people.”
“They were innovators in the industry and excellent merchandisers,” he said. “There will be a big void with their absence.”
Prince, who is the third generation of his family to operate in the candy business, said he lives by the words of his grandfather, that to survive, a business must constantly change.
He said Candy-Rama didn’t have the advantage of new blood in the form of a next generation in the family coming along to keep ahead of the change curve.
One way Prince said he and his partner, Tom Griffin, are evolving is through their wholesale Web site, CandyFavorites.com, which is becoming one of the company’s primary growth engines.
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