Candy Firm Honored for Old-Fashioned Values

Written by Pamela Reinsel Cotter

Published by McKeesport Daily News, July 1994

Observers throughout the country have noted a recent trend towards returning to the "old fashioned" way of conducting business: companies showing responsibility and personal interest in employees and the community at large.

McKeesport Candy Co's Griffin, Prince with Fundraising Candy.

McKeesport Candy Co.'s Griffin, Prince with Fundraising Candy.

But for 68 years one local small business, McKeesport Candy Co; has quietly kept that tradition alive. And now it's community work has been recognized on a national level.

The family-owned city firm has achieved the award for its work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Western Pennsylvania, receiving first place honors in Candy Wholesaler Magazine's 1994 "Community Service Awards."

The national publication honored McKeesport Candy and its sales manager Tom Griffin for organizing and contributing to Make-a Wish Day at the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game.

Held this past Mother's Day, the event reunite s Make-a Wish families, some whose children have since died, with a picnic, Pirate game and activities such as entertainment and food.

About 2,400 people attended the Pirate game and the party, and McKeesport Candy Co donated over $2,000 worth of candy for the children 900 Make-a-Wish families and volunteers.

Griffin said he chaired the event this year, but previously got involved in the organization because his daughter, Elizabeth, had been diagnosed the acute lymphatic leukemia at age 13.

Now 15, Elizabeth is cancer-free thanks to chemotherapy and her own maturization, but Griffin has stayed dedicated to Make-a-Wish.

"It's just the best organization ," Griffin said , noting the what sticks out in his mind about Make-a-Wish is "the involvement of these people that want to fulfill the children's wishes. They do everything from the moment the wish is made until it's fulfilled."

Packaging Licorice for the Todd's Bag Candy product line.

Packaging Licorice for the Todd's Bag Candy product line.

Children under age 18 with life threatening diseases are treated to special "wishes" through the organization, the large majority of which are trips to Disney World, according to Ann Fisher , Make-a-Wish of Western Pennsylvania's communications manager. The organization attempts must request, she said, "the kids are only limited by their own imaginations."

McKeesport Candy philanthropy also did not end with that one Pirate game. This is the second year the company has handed over a portion of its profits from candy fundraising enterprises for scout troops and other organizations for Make-a-Wish .Last year the company presented the charity the two $400 checks.

In addition, McKeesport Candy has been donating treats for Make-a-Wish's Halloween and Christmas parties, including candy canes for its annual holiday fundraiser at its headquarters in Pittsburgh's Westin William Penn Hotel.

According to Fisher, 80 percent of Make-a-Wish's children survive their life-threatening illnesses. "That's quite a record," Griffin said.

Jon Prince, now the third generation of McKeesport Candy Co's family owner/managers, said the company supports the philanthropy because his family believes "service to the customer is really all important , but what's more important is service to the community."
It was Prince, the son of company president Jerry Prince, who started McKeesport Candy Co's participation in area fundraising candy sales four years ago, a portion of the business that has taken off. "We've been lucky with it," he said declining to reveal sales figures.

When Prince's grandfather began the business is 1925, we sold mostly to the corner drugstore, but now they're mostly gone, so we've had to come up with new ideas."

That includes deemphasizing cigarettes, which at one time contributed to half of the wholesaler's merchandise. Now it's about a 70-30 percent split between candy and tobacco products, according to Prince.

It distributes and packages some 3,000 major brands of candy- everything from traditional Hershey and Mars products to the newer, gooier kid-oriented products such as"Pond Scum" and "Snots."

In addition, the company has also acquired the Todd's Bag Candy line, which it packages next door to its plant at 1101 Fifth Ave, in McKeesport, "something my family's real proud of." Prince said.

The family is also proud of its 20 employees, according to Prince, which includes some long-time company veterans.

Bookeeper Lucy Mallozzi of Clairton has worked there for 47 years, and has praise for all three generations of the Prince's. "The gentlemen have all been the same... good businessmen."

Prince said he believes McKeesport Candy Co. has been successful for so long because of its personal touch and service- both in and out of the plant.

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