March 3, 2013: We hope you enjoy this blast from the past, originally published in April 2011. Please be sure to check out the latest news about business in Maryland on the MDBiz News home page.
by Christine Hansen for MDBizMedia
After Christmas, the busiest shopping days for most businesses are typically over. But as the December holidays draw to a close, Mary Sue Candies wraps up their Christmas production to prepare for its busiest season of the year: Easter. For over 50 years, the Baltimore-based chocolate candy company has been producing mass amounts of chocolate candy eggs for Easter baskets across the nation.
“Easter is our busiest time of year—we produce millions if not tens of millions of eggs for the holiday,” Bill Buppert, President of Mary Sue Candies, said.
Mary Sue workers begin their shift early in the morning at 5:30 and work 10 hour days (but only work 4 days a week). Working in staggered shifts, a Mary Sue factory worker’s day can include anything from mixing the ingredients that go into each egg, to shaping and decorating, and packaging each egg to be sold in stores.
“This job takes a lot of hand-eye coordination. Candy making is a very special trade and requires a unique food background,” Buppert said. “All of our eggs truly are handmade.”
Mary Sue was founded by the Spector and Ashton family in 1948.
“Mr. Ashton had two daughters, one named Mary and one named Sue, and that’s where the company name came from,” Buppert said. “They both went on to become nuns. Mary, sadly, passed away, but Sue still stops by a few times a year to pick up candy for the nuns.”
The families started making the chocolate candies in a small Baltimore rowhouse. As sales grew and the company expanded, it began to acquire more of the rowhouses next door. But they eventually grew out of that space, and built and opened a factory on Caton Avenue in Baltimore in 1955, where the candies are still being made.
In 1996, Mary Sue merged with Naron, a high end chocolate company, which has been in existence since 1905. In 2001, Buppert and his family, who owned Ruxton Chocolates, purchased the company from the Spector family. Today, the company employs approximately 50 people, many of whom have been with the Mary Sue family for years.
“One of the things that sets us apart is that we are a small company and we stayed true to our roots. We make sure that the quality of our products is up to the standards of our customers—many of whom have been buying our products for 50 to 60 years. This was their Easter tradition and they have passed it on to their kids and their grandkids,” Buppert said.
The company also has a warehouse, where they store the candies, located in the Clipper Mill industrial park off of the Jones Falls Expressway. It is most recognizable by the giant pink Easter Bunny that sits on the roof during the Easter season.
“Baltimore is who we are, and Maryland is a very important part of who we are as a company. Fifty years from now, I fully expect to see Mary Sue’s factory and corporate offices in Maryland and in Baltimore,” Buppert said.