About F.B. Washburn Candy Corporation
America's Oldest Family Owned Candy Business began as an offshoot of the Washburn Bakery in 1856. Francis B. Washburn started the business over 161 years ago in a small building in Brockton, Massachusetts that now encompasses five floors and 150,000 square feet.
The most popular of the firm's many bakery items was a coconut cookie, similar to the macaroon of today. The large sales of this cookie prompted Washburn to enter the candy field. From the original coconut macaroon, the idea of making a candy bar developed. The famous WALEECO COCONUT BAR was born. The success of this candy bar led to others, one of which was the Washburn Peanut Bar, similar to the Planter's Peanut Bar that Planter's manufactures today. FB Washburn Candy grew and eventually starch and hard candy departments were added. Washburn had now established a brand name in the New England area, and its line of old-fashioned hard candies such as Sour Balls, Peppermint Starlights, and Lollypops became household words. A Christmas specialty known as Ribbon Candy was particularly popular.
In 1933, the company started to experience some financial problems. A machinery company, Union Confectionary, was considering taking over the company, as it held a chattel mortgage on most of the equipment. One of the owners of the machinery was very friendly with Harry Gilson, who at the time was running Emerson Candy in New York. Mr. Gilson had previously been the plant manager for Hershey's Tootsie Rolls. Union Confectionary offered Harry Gilson the opportunity to take over FB Washburn Candy with the hope that he could turn the company around. During the heart of the depression in 1933, the Gilsons moved from Brooklyn to Brockton, Massachusetts.
Through Harry Gilson's tireless efforts, FB Washburn Candy slowly recovered and started to grow and prosper. Two years after assuming control, Harry invited his brother Sam to join him in business. Throughout the 40's and 50's, the company expanded. The Waleeco Coconut bar became famous and was advertised locally on the radio during all Boston Braves and Boston Red Sox games, with Jerry O'Leary conducting a program before all of the home games.
Beginning in the 60's and continuing through the mid 80's, the battle for shelf space in then emerging supermarkets and discount stores was underway. The candy bar business declined sharply and the new management decided to discontinue all candy bars and close down the chocolate department to concentrate exclusively on hard candy. FB Washburn Candy was now into the second generation of Gilson management as the two sons of Harry Gilson, Lester and Robert, became the new owners. Sam Gilson had passed away in 1957 and Harry Gilson in 1969.
|a brief history of Ribbon Candy|
In June 1986, FB Washburn Candy purchased Sevigny's Candy, its major competitor in the ribbon candy business, making Washburn Candy the only major producer of this delicacy. The ribbon candy business has grown and the product is shipped throughout the United States and Canada. Today FB Washburn Candy is a major factor in the hard candy business, supplying many rebaggers, private label and major discounters with their line of wrapped hard candies.
A third generation of the family entered the candy business in 1974 with Robert's son, Douglas, coming on board. In 1978 he was joined by Lester's son, James. The cousins are now the owners of the company, as both Lester and Robert retired in 1997. Doug and Jim continue FB Washburn Candy's reputation for quality candies and service that has stood the test of time for more than 150 years.