The first Fannie May shop was opened in 1920 by H. Teller Archibald at 11 North LaSalle Street in Chicago. Fifteen years later in 1935, Fannie May had opened 48 stores in Illinois and its surrounding states in the Midwest. In the midst of World War II, the ingredients for Fannie May's recipes were hard to come by. However, they chose to not change their recipes, while other competitors did. By sticking with the exact recipes, often the shops had to be closed early because no more candy was available that day. Fannie May's vision was to create handmade, delectable chocolates, without ever compromising the taste of the candy.
In 1946, just after World War II, Fannie May created its most well-known candy to date, the Pixie. In the 1970s and 1980s Fannie May continued to develop new candy flavors with the introduction of the Trinidad in 1970, and the creation of the Eggnog Creams in 1989. In 1991, Fannie May made the decision to make some of their candy with sugar-free chocolate, which made it available to diabetics and dieters.
In attempt to reach all consumers, Fannie May became allergy conscious. They carry candy without gluten, gelatin, milk, honey, oil(s), wheat, eggs, etc. Fannie May even lists the health benefits of eating dark chocolate. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America certified many of Fannie May's products to be kosher as well.
In 1992, Fannie May bought similarly-named competitor Fanny Farmer—making it the largest (most stores) candy retailer in the United States—which was a prelude to the company's bankruptcy. It is also why Fannie May stores shared a look similar to that of Fanny Farmer.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, under the ownership of a private equity firm, Archibald Candy not only expanded Fannie May and Fanny Farmer's store base, but also acquired Canadian icon Laura Secord as well as The Sweet Factory. By 2002, Archibald Candy had 412 company-operated stores (197 Fannie May, 45 Fanny Farmer and 170 Laura Secord) in 18 states in the U.S., and 9 provinces in Canada. Archibald Candy products were distributed in approximately 8,000 third-party retail outlets nationwide. Archibald Candy's primary manufacturing operations were located in Chicago, Illinois at that time.
Overburdened by approximately $170 million of debt, Archibald Candy defaulted on its loans and filed for bankruptcy in June 2002. After implementing a restructuring plan and emerging from bankruptcy, Archibald again defaulted on its debt by early 2003 and ultimately filed for bankruptcy protection a second time in two years.
At that time, Archibald's Board of Directors decided to pursue a sale of the company's businesses. The company hired Michael Levy of New York-based investment bank Paragon Capital Partners who facilitated a restructuring and then orchestrated sale transactions of Fannie May Confections and Laura Secord under Section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The divestiture of Archibald Candy’s Fannie May and Fannie Farmer businesses culminated in an open outcry auction with more than 200 participants representing 40+ qualified bidders, ultimately won by Utah-based Alpine Confections. The cross-border sale of Canadian chocolate icon Laura Secord also culminated in an open-outcry auction, won by private equity firms Gordon Brothers and EG Capital, and represented one of the first 363-style auction processes and integrated cross-border court processes in Canada (including joint proceedings by video-conference).
After purchasing Fannie May (and Fanny Farmer) from Archibald Candy, Alpine Confections moved production to the company's Green, Ohio-based Harry London Candies, which had been purchased by Alpine Confections a year earlier, hoping to make a profit with the history of the confectionery's brand and reopened it in October 2004. Led by entrepreneurs R. Taz Murray and David Taiclet, the integration of this acquisition was highly successful.
In April 2006, Fannie May was sold for $85 million plus an earn out to publicly traded Internet retailer 1-800-Flowers.com. Alpine Confections again tapped investment banker Paragon Capital Partners for this transaction. The chocolates and candy continue to be manufactured in Green, Ohio, under Fannie May Confections Brands Inc, while their corporate headquarters remains in Chicago, Illinois.
On Thanksgiving Day 2014, a fire broke out in a Fannie May warehouse in Maple Heights, Ohio. The 330,000 square-foot building was severely damaged. While none of the staff or employees were hurt, the majority of the products from holiday orders were lost. The only thing that survived after the warehouse fire in 2014 was the "Fannie May Strong" banner. It was pulled from the rubble and still hangs in the warehouse as a reminder.
Fannie May has been partners with a couple Chicago sports teams, since they are solely based in Illinois and founded in Chicago. Fannie May was a sponsor of the Chicago Blackhawks. For a while, Fannie May played upon the hockey team's slogan creating, "Fannie May Strong One Team, One Goal". The Blackhawks store in downtown Chicago on North Michigan Avenue at one point had a Fannie May residing underneath it.
In early 2016, Fannie May decided to sponsor another famous Chicago team. They became partners with the 2016 World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs announced before the 2016 season that Wrigley Field was undergoing some changes, but would be up and running before the home opener. One of these changes included a marketing opportunity for Fannie may. Replacing the Budweiser Suite is the Fannie May Bleacher Suite. Wrigley Field's largest luxury suite holds roughly 70-100 people and gives them a view of center field. The suite also offers amenities as well.
As the official chocolate of the Chicago Cubs, Fannie May has also introduced a line of Cubs candy. The candy is baseball themed with inspiration from the Chicago Cubs.
One change was the remodeling of the North Michigan Avenue store. Out of the five Fannie May's in the Loop, this was the only one that had a remodel and has been reopened. "The Cafe at Fannie May" now has bakery items, a new modern space in and outside, and seating.
In March 2017, the Italian confectionery giant Ferrero SpA bought the chocolate maker from 1-800-Flowers.com. The maker of Nutella announced a multimillion-dollar deal to buy out Fannie May and Harry London. The international company closed the deal on May 30, 2017 and paid $115 million. Ferrero mentions that they hope to expand Fannie May as a whole. They want to provide Fannie May locations across the nation, not just in Chicago.
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