In the 1920s a cherubic child in a red-and-white hat hawked the quintessential Christmas treat—the peppermint candy cane—to Albany natives in an advertisement for a local candy company. Some sixty years later, that family-owned company, known as Bobs Candies, commemorated its place in the national candy and snack-food world by producing the world’s largest candy cane, an eight-foot-long crook that weighed more than 100 pounds. In 2005 the company’s founding family, the McCormacks, decided to sell the organization to a larger, diversified candy manufacturer in order to keep the family legacy alive.
The candy company began in 1919, when Bob McCormack, an investor based in Birmingham, Alabama, visited Albany and decided that it would be a good location for a candy business. Helped by other investors back in Birmingham, McCormack started producing sticks of candy for his Famous Candy Company. McCormack married and had three children, the oldest of whom, Anna Louise, was the child in his ads. The company continued to grow with such new lines as hard candy and taffy. McCormack and fellow investor Bob Mills soon bought out the other backers, and in 1924 they changed the name of the company to Bobs’ Candy Company. (The apostrophe was later dropped.) Bobs, which moved to a larger facility in the 1930s so that it could expand its product lines, was one of the few candy companies to remain solvent during the Great Depression.
As the economy began to improve in 1940, Americans began purchasing more candies and snacks. But it wasn’t long before Bobs Candy’s fortunes were reversed. A tornado hit Albany’s business district on February 10, 1940, killing seventeen people and causing an estimated $9 million in storm losses. The Bobs building was among those leveled, and because the company had no tornado insurance, it had to rebuild on its own.
By August 1940 the company was back in business and employed McCormack’s three children. During World War II (1941-45), when sugar was rationed, coconuts were in short supply, and pecans were expensive, Bobs took advantage of a plentiful local product—the peanut—and sold peanut-butter crackers and vacuum-packed peanuts. During the 1950s, Bobs began making money with such innovations as break-proof packaging, moisture-proof candy wrappers, and the Keller Machine, which twisted and cut the company’s scrapped bits of stick candy into pieces that could be sold. In 1956 the company’s name changed to Bobs Candies, and by 1958 the Keller Machine was perfected and able to mass produce the popular hooked candy cane.
By the end of the 1950s Bobs was producing 1.8 million sticks of candy each day and had national sales of $3.3 million. In early 1963 Bob McCormack Sr. stepped down, promoting his son to president of the company. McCormack Sr. died in 1967 before he could see the company’s new facilities, which opened in 1968 and included a climate-controlled storage area.
Over the next two decades, other McCormacks joined the family company, and in 1988 McCormack Sr.’s grandson Greg succeeded his father as company president. In spring 2005 the McCormacks sold the company to Farley’s and Sathers Candy Company, a large distributor that manages such major candy brands as Now and Later, Jujyfruits, and Super Bubble. Farley’s and Sathers shut down all of Bobs Candies’ Albany operations by the end of 2005.