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Monthly Event Highlights: Russell Stover Candies
February 1, 2021 - February 28, 2021
A slice of Kansas City History: the story of Russell Stover Candies
Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies began for Russell and Clara Stover in Denver Co. in 1923. Operations started in their kitchen employing seven people. The following year the Stover’s are operating five stores in Denver, St Louis, Omaha and Kansas City. In 1928, Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies is doing so well they open their first factory in, you guessed it, Kansas City. Kansas City was and still is the geographic transportation center of the United States. At that time, it was the railroad that moved the world in and out of KC. Today it’s a combination of interstate, rail and the intermodal connecting the two entities.
In 1932 all company operations are moved to downtown Kansas City. That happens a lot even today. In 1934, not exactly a great time to be opening any kind of business, the Stover’s opened a drive through location reportedly on the Plaza serving candy and ice cream.
Something you may not know, in 1921 Russell Stover along with his partner at the time Christian Nelson came up with a chocolate dipped ice cream bar at a party which later became known as “the” Eskimo Pie. The Stover’s sold their share of Eskimo Pies and started the boxed candy business that I write about here.
In 1943 Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies officially became Russell Stover Candies. In 1954 Russell Stover dies and for the next 15 years the Stover family continues to operate the business. In 1969 Louis Ward purchased the company and transformed it from a regional household name to an international brand. The company moved its headquarters from downtown to its current location at Oak St and Volker Blvd. just east of the Plaza. In 1993 Russell Stover Candies acquired Whitman Sampler and 1999 purchased Pangburn’s.
Today Russell Stover’s Candies (now owned by the Swiss chocolate maker Lindt) is the nation’s largest maker of boxed chocolate candy and third largest candy maker behind only Mars and Hersey. They currently have 40 company owned stores and produce around 45,000 metric tons (90,000,000 lbs.) of chocolate annually.
One last piece of trivia…all of the Russell Stover Candy boxes are designed by 12 Kansas City artists.
Another company that decided to call Kansas City home some 87 years ago.
The next installment will be about a gentleman who moved to Kansas City 140 years ago and later became known as “Mr. Anonymous”.
All the best-
Here’s another Russell Stover’s Kansas City fun fact coming to us from Sean Ackerson, Executive Director of the Southtown Planning Center (Southtown • Brookside • Troost Ave). In the 1930’s, the historic Brookside Shops was home to Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies. Here’s an excerpt from “The Brookside Story, Shops of Every Necessary Character” by local historian LaDene Morton. From page 39:
“He [Harry Jacobs] quickly leased the space to the Stover Candy Company, now Russell Stover Candies. That company built one of its first retail outlets, known then as Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies. The Kansas City version was Art Deco in design, though nationally, Stover’s standard shop looked like a small white cottage. Next door, the Country Club Dairy built a soda fountain and called it the Oasis. These businesses were there [SW corner of 63rd Street and Brookside Plaza where Starbucks stands today] through the mid-1940s.”
The following photos are taken from page 40 of the book. The originals are 1940s Kansas City survey photos. With the art deco style and ornamentation on the top of the Stover’s building, it almost resembles a small Winstead’s. <3 It was believed to be one of a kind for Stover’s, unique to Brookside. 🙂