Family business approaches a century of handcrafted candy making; Focus is on keeping quality up and prices down.
Residents of Stark County need not worry if they get a craving for chocolate.
Local favorite Ben Heggy’s Candy Co., 743 Cleveland Ave., has them “covered.”
Ben Heggy’s has been making delicious chocolate candies in Stark County since 1923.
Though most of Ben Heggy’s candy is sold in Northeast Ohio, the company has built a devoted following throughout the U.S., and beyond. Thanks to the Internet, the company’s mouthwatering candies can be delivered anywhere.
Ben Heggy’s candy is shipped to Florida and California regularly, and shipments have gone as far as Canada and Europe.
“The customer ordering the shipment to Europe said, ‘Christmas just isn’t Christmas without Ben Heggy’s,’” said Cindy Wollenberg, daughter of the late Ben Heggy.
Cindy, sister Nancy Heggy, and ex-husband Dick “Wolly” Wollenberg, are partners. Cindy and Wolly’s son, Dan, is head of the nut department. Nancy’s son, Tim, is in charge of caramels.
The late Suzanne and Dick Fano, as well as Beverly and Jimmy Cerretta, were previously involved with the business (Suzanne and Beverly also were Ben Heggy’s daughters). Nancy’s ex-husband, the late Robert Seymour, also was involved.
“I grew up in this business,” said Cindy. “When I was little, I used to climb on sacks of sugar. I’d get into trouble, and don’t know why Dad kept bringing me to the store.”
After starting in 1954 at age 18, Wolly still works at the store at age 82.
“When I started, candy sold for 65 cents a pound,” said Wolly. “Now, it’s $10.50 a pound. We do everything we can to keep costs down and quality up."
Machinery also has changed. In the early days, a typical batch of candy was 75 lbs. Today, more modern equipment has made the typical batch 150 lbs.
During the busy season, Ben Heggy’s can make as many as 64,000 pieces of candy each day. The store is open Mondays through Saturdays, and candy making operations vary, depending on the time of year.
Ben Heggy’s candy is made at the Cleveland Ave. location, and is distributed for sale to 38 additional sites.
The company makes and sells 40 varieties of milk chocolates, dark chocolates and caramels, and roasted nuts.
About two-thirds of customers prefer milk chocolate to dark. The most popular are milk chocolate-covered pecans and peanuts, and milk chocolate peanut clusters.
Wolly and Nancy’s favorite is dark chocolate-covered peanut clusters. Cindy prefers dark chocolate-covered marshmallows.
“You can go anywhere in the world, even Switzerland, and you won’t find dark chocolate as good as here at Ben Heggy’s,” said Cindy.
While the family hasn’t messed much with a good thing, it has tweaked.
“We use recipes from back when Ben opened the store,” said Wolly. “And, we’ve added a few new varieties, including French mints, chocolate-covered pretzels and pecan turtles.”
The secret is not having too many different candies to maintain.
Most candy producers discarded the art of handcrafting quality chocolates, but Ben Heggy’s commitment to it has withstood the test of time.
The same quality goes into every piece of candy made today as when Ben Heggy made it himself. That patient style results in a unique, savory taste.
Ben Heggy’s employs between 20 and 40 people, depending on the season.
“We appreciate everyone who works here,” said Nancy. “From dippers to candy wrappers, they work hard and are dedicated to making quality products.”
Word of mouth and reputation has been important.
“It’s amazing that, after 95 years, we’re still growing every year,” said Cindy.
Sixty percent of Ben Heggy’s business occurs between October and December. So, get holiday orders in early because the store runs out of popular items during the busy seasons.
There are many gifts to consider, but chocolates have a unique bonding power.
“There’s something special about chocolate,” said Cindy. “A gift of chocolate is something the whole family can enjoy. It really brings families together.”
While there’s been talk of expansion, no plans are in place.
But, one thing’s for certain. Ben Heggy’s Candy Co. has the initiative to provide even more of the world with a little taste of sweet Stark County pride.