Marshall Fieldâ€™s may be gone from Chicago, but the department store's popular Frango Mints are moving back in.
Paul Stefanos passed away in 2000. The business now has four manufacturing facilities in the Chicago area and a list of retail customers that includes Crate & Barrel, Figi's Inc of Marshfield, Wisc., Golden Farm Candies of South Bend, Ind. and Terry Lynn, Inc., in Elgin, Ill.
The company also supplies dozens of gift shops, floral shops and gift basket companies throughout the Midwest.
The precise popularity of the Frango's mint is apparently a trade secret. Macy's spokeswoman Jennifer McNamara refused to provide sales figures, saying only that mint was the "number one flavor of Frango Chocolates.".
According to Stefanos, the company had to submit samples and prove that they could reproduce the closely-guarded recipe.
â€œWhen they (Federated) announced that they were looking for a Chicago manufacturer we submitted samples and they narrowed it down to five or six companies and then they asked us to submit more samples. We got close enough to the piece that they felt that we could produce the actual product.â€
At Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, the candy is made on an enrolling line, where the center piece is molded and â€œenrolledâ€ or coated in chocolate.
Stefanos plans to use a different process, known as "cold slabbing" to make the candies. Instead of purchasing an enrolling machine they will cut the candies at the center and coat it in chocolate.
Frango Mints is a coveted contract for this modest manufacturing company. But Stefanos says he can't say how much Cupid Candies is contracted to produce or how much the deal is worth.
â€œI havenâ€™t told anybody," he said. "Itâ€™s a situation where they donâ€™t want to release that information for whatever reason."
Stefanos would also not disclose his start-up costs for the new venture.
He estimates that the contract will make up 20 to 25 percent of Cupid Candies' production and require the company to beef up its 18-person workforce.
"I will definitely have to add a second shift,â€ states Stefanos.
â€œObviously this will be the biggest contract that weâ€™ve got. We started out as a retail company when my dad started this company and I choose to go another route. We are still are in the retail business, but Iâ€™ve chosen to try and expand on the wholesale level.â€