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Brach’s Confections was a candy manufacturing company located in Chicago, Illinois that operated between 1904 and 2003.
Brach’s Confections was founded by Emil J. Brach, son of German immigrants who had settled in Iowa. In 1904, Brach began a small candy retail shop in Chicago with his two young sons, dubbed the “Palace of Sweets.” The store manufactured its own candy, and demand only grew for his products. By 1923, Brach had used up five floors in his building and sought after larger space, moving into a new building near the street that would become Cicero.
Over the next several decades, Brach’s candy factory would expand to include more than a million square feet. Between 1923 and 1953, twelve additions were built on 17 acres, employing 3,400 employees that produced 300 pounds of candy at a time that required sugar from more than 42,000 acres of cane and beets and 3,000 dairy cows. Twenty laboratory technicians routinely checked the candy quality at specific quality control checking stations. Chicago had become known as the “Candy Capital” of the United States, helping cement the city as the hub of manufacturing.
During World War II, demand for Brach declined due to rations that were imposed. After the war had concluded and after Emil’s death in 1947, the founder’s two sons took over operations at the factory. At this time, the company began outsourcing operations – first to Mexico, while expanding capacity at its Chicago plant. By the 1950s, over 500 varieties of candy were produced at Brach.
By the 1980s, a poor marketing plan and high sugar prices were undermining Brach’s operations to the point that they had requested the factory be designated as a Foreign Trading Zone to allow for the importation of sugar at lower prices. When that was rejected by the Commerce Department, Brach threatened to close the Chicago plant. The plant was saved through a $10 million loan in 1990. But it was announced in 2003 that the plant would close due to high sugar prices and costs. The last 1,600 workers left their stations for the last time in 2007.
Photos by Dan Glass
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