Sweet confusion over Fanny, Fannie

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
December 23, 1998

You have died and gone to heaven. You are inside the West Town factory where Fannie May and Fanny Farmer chocolates are manufactured, and you are thisclose to vats of caramel, chocolate and pecans.

Never mind that there is a TV crew filming a news segment (there are no public tours),  and you’ve been spotted wearing a hairnet and a white lab coat with the name “Catherine” embroidered over your pocket. Never mind that you’re not Catherine.

You are surrounded by a bazillion pounds of chocolate and for that you willingly sacrifice fashion. (Actually, you have to. Otherwise the Chocolate Police won’t let you near the assembly line where the treats are made.)

You have never been happier in your entire life. Not even when you met Mel Gibson on your birthday.

“This is definitely the busiest time of the year,” says Sara E. Runde, marketing communications manager for the Archibald Candy Corp., the umbrella company for both Fannie and Fanny. “Fifty percent of what we sell each year is between the period of Thanksgiving and Jan. 1. So we have extra help during this season. Right now, we’ve got about 500 employees working – about twice as many people as we have at other times of the year.”

There are four floors of production. Identically garbed employees (hairnets, white lab coats) work in places like the cream room, where the creamy centers are made, and the enrober room, where rows and rows of perfectly shaped balls of confection file down an assembly line. Karen Bender, manager of special projects, says the company will produce between 25,000 and 50,000 pounds of chocolate each day.

And we Americans apparently buy each delicious pound to satisfy a sweet tooth and, in some cases, to use as a means of seduction. According to a recent survey commissioned by the American Boxed Chocolate Manufacturers, 29 percent of all American men believe that their chances for, uh, romance, are stronger if they give their honeys chocolates.

Fannie May Candies was founded right here in Chicago by H. Teller Archibald in 1920. He opened his first shop at 11 N. LaSalle and cooked up the candy in the back of the store. In the late 1930s he purchased the 325,000-square-foot property at 1137 W. Jackson, where the candy is made to this day.

Don’t confuse Fannie May with Fanny Farmer Candies, which the Archibald Candy Corp. purchased in 1994.

Fanny Farmer was named after a real person whose first name – ironically enough – was “Fannie.” When East Coast candymaker Frank O’Connor opened his first candy shop in New York in 1919, he named it after Fannie Merit Farmer, whose introduction of the level teaspoon and cup earned her the nickname, “the mother of measurements.”

There are now more than 300 Fannie May and Fanny Farmer stores across the country. Do consumers actually know the difference between the two?

“Some people swear that they prefer one brand to the other,” said Runde, “but they’re really the same.”

Some of the boxed chocolates look alike. In Fannie May-speak, the pecan and caramel treats drenched in milk chocolate are top-selling Pixies. In Fanny Farmer land, the same confection is called the Pecan Dixie. Fannie’s popular Mint Meltaway is known as the French and Frosted Mints over at Fanny’s.

But a rose is a rose by any other name, and be it Pixie or Dixie, I love them all.

Comments (3)

  1. Jae-Ha Kim says:

    It has been almost 12 years since I wrote this story and a few things have changed. For one, Mel Gibson is no longer a golden boy. As of today, he’s embroiled in a nasty custody battle with his former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. As for Fannie May, I don’t buy their chocolates anymore, even though I’m still a fan of their Mint Meltaways and Pixies. I’ve purchased one too many boxes where a piece or two of chocolate is missing. Not a big deal in the long run, but the customer service reps I talked to were quick to say that I was wrong. Even though they had no way of knowing. Could I have been lying? Sure I could have. But I wasn’t.

    • wms says:

      Based on the above (article) writing, I beg to differ. The Pixie at Fannie Mae is awesome!! The Pecan Dixie at Fanny Farmer is tasty but does NOT have the same BUTTERY taste as the Pixie. It reminds me of the “Turtles” brand you buy at your local Walgreens store.

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