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H. Teller Archibald opened the first Fannie May shop in 1920 at 11 N. LaSalle St. in Chicago. By 1935, there were nearly four dozen shops in Illinois and several neighboring states. During World War II, while other companies chose to change their recipes when ingredients were scarce, Fannie May stuck with its exact recipes, making only what it could. Often that meant closing shops early because no more candy was available, but never was the taste of the candy compromised. It was his vision to create delicious tasting, handcrafted chocolates. By 1934, Fannie May had opened 48 stores in Illinois and its surrounding states in the Midwest.
In 1946, just after World War II, Fannie May created its most well-known candy to date, the Pixie. In the 1970s and 1980s Fannie May continued to develop new candy flavors with the introduction of the Trinidad in 1970 possibly their most well known candy, and the creation of the Eggnog Creams in 1989. In 1991, Fannie May made the decision to make some of their candy with sugar-free chocolate, which made it available to diabetics and dieters.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, under the ownership of a private equity firm, Archibald Candy not only expanded Fannie May and Fanny Farmer's store base, but also acquired Canadian icon Laura Secord as well as The Sweet Factory. By 2002, Archibald Candy had 412 company-operated stores (197 Fannie May, 45 Fanny Farmer and 170 Laura Secord) in 18 states in the U.S., and 9 provinces in Canada. Archibald Candy products were distributed in approximately 8,000 third-party retail outlets nationwide. Archibald Candy's primary manufacturing operations were located in Chicago, Illinois at that time.
Overburdened by approximately $170 million of debt, Archibald Candy defaulted on its loans and filed for bankruptcy in June 2002. After implementing a restructuring plan and emerging from bankruptcy, Archibald again defaulted on its debt by early 2003 and ultimately filed for bankruptcy protection a second time in two years.
At that time, Archibald's Board of Directors decided to pursue a sale of the company's businesses. The company hired Michael Levy of New York-based investment bank Paragon Capital Partners who facilitated a restructuring and then orchestrated sale transactions of Fannie May Confections and Laura Secord under Section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The divestiture of Archibald Candy’s Fannie May and Fannie Farmer businesses culminated in an open outcry auction with more than 200 participants representing 40+ qualified bidders, ultimately won by Utah-based Alpine Confections. The cross-border sale of Canadian chocolate icon Laura Secord also culminated in an open-outcry auction, won by private equity firms Gordon Brothers and EG Capital, and represented one of the first 363-style auction processes and integrated cross-border court processes in Canada (including joint proceedings by video-conference).
After purchasing Fannie May (and Fanny Farmer) from Archibald Candy, Alpine Confections moved production to the company's Green, Ohio-based Harry London Candies, which had been purchased by Alpine Confections a year earlier, hoping to make a profit with the history of the confectionery's brand and reopened it in October 2004. Led by entrepreneurs R. Taz Murray and David Taiclet, the integration of this acquisition was highly successful.
In April 2006, Fannie May was sold for $85 million plus an earn out to publicly traded Internet retailer 1-800-Flowers.com. Alpine Confections again tapped investment banker Paragon Capital Partners for this transaction. The chocolates and candy continue to be manufactured in Green, Ohio, under Fannie May Confections Brands Inc, while their corporate headquarters remains in Chicago, Illinois.