• 1906: William E. Brock Sr. buys Trigg Candy Co. of Chattanooga, renaming it Brock Candy three years later
• 1920: Company has first major success with a 5-cent peanut stick
• 1972: Brock acquires plant in Winona, Minn.
• 1993: Sales hit $102.3 million
• 1994: Brock bought by Brach's Confections
• 2007: Brach's sold to Farley's & Sathers Candy Co.
• 2012: Farley's & Sathers merges with Ferrara Candy Co.
Source: Newspaper archives
Oscar Brock recalls working a summer job at his family's Chattanooga candy company when he was in college, a business founded by his great-grandfather in 1906.
"I loved it," he said Monday about his job at the then-Brock Candy Co. plant on Jersey Pike. "I was in quality control and got to go to all the different production places every day. The people were the kindest, gentlest people you could ever imagine."
Later this year, an era will end when the plant's now owner, Chicago-based Ferrara Pan Candy Co., will close the factory and lay off all of the production workers.
That will spell the end of a century-long story that saw the factory survive the Great Depression - though for a time it had to pay its employees in pennies - then go on to $100 million a year in sales in the 1990s.
The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, itself 127 years old, noted losing the manufacturing of a business with lineage dating back to Brock Candy.
Chamber spokeswoman Amanda Ellis said officials are "certainly sorry to see a company with such a history close its doors."
The company has about 100 people at the plant after a layoff of 95 earlier this year. The current number includes 20 employees at the corporate level in procurement, information technology, engineering and research and development. A group of corporate personnel will stay in Chattanooga, but at a different location, the company said.
The plant makes jellied candies and fruit snacks. Production will be moved to other sites, according to Ferrara, which bought the Chattanooga plant two years ago when it purchased Farley's & Sathers.
"Like all companies, Ferrara Candy must be proactive in ensuring efficient operations in order to remain competitive," the company said in a statement.
Ferrara makes Lemonheads, Red Hots, Black Forest gummy bears, Atomic Fireballs, Boston Baked Beans and Brach's candy products. Earlier this year, Ferrara moved production of chocolate and maple nut goodies from Jersey Pike to facilities in Illinois.
Angie Morgan said in a Facebook post that she lost her job in an earlier layoff after Ferrara bought Farley's & Sathers, having worked at a Cummings Road location that was shut down about two years ago.
She said the two plants "had been open many, many years and had many lifetime employees that worked for them their entire adult lives."
Oscar Brock, a commercial real estate agent, said he also is sad to see candy manufacturing leave the plant, though he said big companies such as Ferrara have to make business decisions.
He recalled that his father, former U.S. Sen. and U.S. Rep. Bill Brock, worked at the plant before running for Congress in 1962.
"Dad worked there when he got out of the Navy," Brock said. His uncles, Pat and Frank, also worked in the business for many years.
Brock remembered that when he was in school, his mother would provide him with boxes of candy, containers the size of a ream of paper, to give to his teachers and principals.
He remembered that Brock Candy made a variety of different treats, bagged and boxed.
"Chocolate-covered cherries is how we made our fame," Brock said.
The company was founded by William E. Brock Sr. in 1906, who himself was a U.S. senator from Tennessee from 1929 to 1931. The company grew slowly at first during the commodities rationing of World War I, but in 1920 had its first major success with its 5-cent peanut stick.
The company introduced new products and made acquisitions, with Brock Candy one of the first to sell its products in cellophane bags.
In the '80s, the company "really took off," Brock said. Sales hit $102.3 million in 1993. The company had plants in Chattanooga, Winona, Minn., and Souderton, Pa., and employment was about 800 during peak seasons.
In 1994, the family sold to the then-owner of Brach's. For a period the company was known as Brach and Brock Confections.
The National Confectioners Association said consolidation happens in many industries, including the candy business, as companies seek more efficient processes. The candy industry is a $33 billion-a-year business in the U.S., and that's expected to grow by $6 billion over the next five years, the association said.
Chocolate is the strongest-growing sector of the business at present, making up 60 percent of sales. Candies such as jelly beans and gummies make up about 30 percent and chewing gum and mints some 10 percent, according to the association.
Ferrara said Monday it would provide assistance to ease the layoffs of employees, including severance, outplacement services and internal opportunities. The company said it's pursuing the sale of the plant to a new operator, which may have the ability to rehire the work force.
"We are working with industry representatives and brokers to assist with this effort, and already have several parties who are interested in the space," the company said.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.