‘A very sad day for all of us’

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 8, 2002

At the end, it came down to this. A roomful of strangers bidding on pieces of the dream that had once been American Candy Company.

They auctioned off the equipment from the hard candy division of American Candy Thursday by order of a U.S. bankruptcy court judge. The company had filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Concord Confections Inc., a Canadian-based company, purchased American Candy’s old wax division and has announced plans to resume production in the near future.

But no buyer was ever found for the hard candy division, thus Thursday’s auction. Melting pots, conveyor belts, lathes, assorted hardware, office equipment … all went for pennies on the dollar as the auctioneer bid more than 1,100 separate lots.

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American Candy had been in operation for 102 years when the high price of sugar and changing market conditions dealt a death blow to the company that once employed as many as 500 people as recently as the late 1990s.

Some have drifted into other jobs. Others have moved on to other cities. Still others remain unemployed since the closing, unable to find new work.

James Cobb worked at the company for 17 years and was the sanitation supervisor when it closed. &uot;It was a good place to work,&uot; he said as he watched the items up for auction being flashed across a portable screen that had been set up.

Cobb recalled that each year the company threw a Christmas party, complete with $25 gift certificates for each of its employees. Each summer there was a company picnic and a drawing for prizes.

The smile faded. &uot;I started not to come,&uot; he said at last. &uot;I’m not sure why I did. Sentimental reasons, I guess.&uot;

Georgia Bobo was vice president of human resources. She had been with American Candy 19 years and had planned to retire there.

She remembered the employees as being mostly loyal and hard-working. More than 50 percent of them received perfect attendance pins each year. After the company announced it was closing, many of those same employees often called Bobo’s office hoping that a new buyer had been found and that their jobs would be safe.

But no buyer ever came forward.

At the front of the room, some 50 feet away, another auction item flashed across the screen.