|SUGAR RUSH: Julie Welch is a new owner of McCraw’s Candies, once owned by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
photography by Jeremy Sharp
A trip down the candy aisle these days can feel like a disorienting, if delicious, experience. The shelves are lined with gooey, hot, sour, and myriad other types of newfangled concoctions. If there is comfort to be found in the old favorites, sweets-lovers can thank Farmersville-based McCraw’s Candies, which is about to celebrate its centennial. As proof of the staying power of McCraw’s old-time taffy, peanut bars, and pecan logs, sales for orders already placed for 2007 have doubled from 2006, following an acquisition in September by Julie Welch and two partners in a golden-ticket stroke of luck. “I bought [the company] partly for the nostalgia,” Welch says. “It was a pool-time favorite when I was a kid, so it was great timing when I saw this business opportunity.”
McCraw’s was started in 1908 by Dee McCraw, whose café in Farmersville, a small town in Collin County, burned down, leaving him with nothing but sugar and a dream. McCraw enlisted his wife in his new taffy-making endeavor, and the rest is sweet, sticky history. Since its inception, McCraw’s Candies has changed hands several times, including a brief spell of ownership by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Today, McCraw’s sells more than 20 million pieces of taffy a year in all 50 states and Canada, and Welch says there are plans to expand the plant and go international in 2008. For its 100th anniversary, McCraw’s will roll out new lines of candy, such as taffy with licensed characters, as well as new flavors, including strawberry, of which five percent of sales will go to cancer research, in honor of Welch’s mother, who is a breast cancer survivor.
So, what’s it like to own an honest-to-goodness candy factory? “It’s a very upbeat and happy business,” Welch says. “Going to the candy shows can be very Willy Wonka-esque. It brings you back to being a kid.”