A Land Of Candy
Exploring 5 of Colorado’s Sweet Artisans
By Mary Anderson
With a history that’s even sweeter than the confections they create, Colorado’s candy companies have stood the test of time. Some have survived and prospered throughout two world wars and the Great Depression. They proved even in the worst of times, as long as there is a candy maker, people find a way to treat themselves. Whether that be a juicy piece of hard candy or a rich assortment of chocolates, Colorado’s high altitude and dry climate truly make for a land of scrumptious candy.
Join us as we explore five Colorado ventures that seduced the sweet tooths of America.
Hammond’s Candies • Carl T. Hammond went to his first day of high school and decided he knew enough. One thing he didn’t know is that he would create a global brand of colorful suckers and candy canes.
The story of Hammond’s Candy is one of entrepreneurship and family. Carl never borrowed any money to operate his business. He also never took a salary. Every dollar made was either invested back into the business, or put toward food and supplies for his family. His hard work was an inspiration. Three generations of Hammond’s owned and operated the candy company.
Hammond’s entered the 21st century with new ownership, and a new leader at the helm. Andrew Schuman was hired to lead the company and it was a perfect fit. Maintaining Carl Hammond’s entrepreneurial image but adapting to the changing times, Schuman transformed the business and sales sky rocketed.
Enstrom Candies • For Chester K. “Chet” Enstrom, it wasn’t about making money. Candy was his passion.
“He always said that he’s just making a little candy for a few of his friends and family,” recalled Doug Simons, Jr., vice president of manufacturing, a fourth generation candy maker.
Chet began his journey to toffee stardom in the ice cream business. His favorite part was making the ingredients to mix into the frozen treats, especially toffee. So when the time came for him to open his own shop, he looked to a candy store.
From its humble beginnings to the company it is today, one thing has remained the same: Enstrom was and is a family affair. Currently in its fourth generation, the family puts tradition at the forefront of their brand. It is as much of a tradition for them to make toffee as it is for their customers to enjoy it.
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (RMCF) • RMCF is more than just a chocolate store. It’s an experience that includes a massive granite slab, traditional cooking utensils and a copper kettle. Customers get a full view of the candy making show. From fudge to caramel apples, it’s in nearly every Colorado native’s bank of childhood memories.
But for founder Frank Crail, it was Durango’s small town vibe that brought him to Colorado, not his passion for candy making. Crail simply wanted a quiet environment to raise his family of seven and he decided starting a business would be a good way to get involved in the community. After surveying local residents and merchants, the majority expressed the need for a car wash. But one person suggested a candy store and the rest is history.
Jolly Rancher • Those who lived in Wheat Ridge during Jolly Rancher’s time here in Colorado probably remember one thing: the smell. A sweet aroma, coming from founders Bill and Dorothy Harmsen’s family farm in Wheat Ridge, filled the local air. The farm became a tourist attraction, drawing two million visitors a year.
But Jolly Rancher’s true origins trace back to Golden in the late 1940s. Bill was a pilot for Continental Airlines, yet he dreamed of owning his own business. So, they opened an ice cream shop at the base of the iconic “Welcome to Golden” arch. During the winter months, when ice cream sales declined, they made chocolates and then assorted flavors of hard candy. The candy outsold the ice cream and Harmsen had found his niche.
He soon hired engineers to design a piece of machinery that churned out large amounts of high-quality candies.
Russell Stover Candies • Russell Stover, with years of candy making experience, had his first success story with Eskimo Pies, the world’s first ice cream bar covered in chocolate. Partnering with inventor, Christian Nelson, the novelty was an instant success. But, after the patent fell through and competition became too strong, Stover and his wife moved to Colorado and founded “Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies,” the precursor to Russell Stover Candies.
Denver’s Congress Park neighborhood, sitting at exactly 5,280 feet of elevation, was the original home to one of the greatest chocolate candy companies in the nation. Partially made famous by Forest Gump’s “life is like a box of chocolates,” Russell Stover Candies had its humble beginnings in the basement of a bungalow house on Detroit Street. The house, in fact, became such a part of the company’s origins, they delivered their chocolates in a replica on wheels.
Mary Anderson is a freelance graphic designer and writer based in Denver. When she is not designing logos or writing stories, you’ll most likely find her in the mountains exploring the state.