the Loft Candy Company


© History Oasis

From its beginnings as a modest family candy shop, the Loft candy company rode waves of early 20th century prosperity to become the largest confectionery in America, only to crumble later under corporate turmoil.

This narrative charts Loft’s explosive rise to sweet supremacy in the Jazz Age, its mid century golden era as a candy giant, then the rapid decline that saw this once-innovative brand turn sour and slip into obscurity.

The story of Loft encapsulates both the soaring heights and bitter pitfalls along the long, twisting road that transforms humble storefronts into national empires, only to see even the mightiest fall from grace when they lose sight of what made them successful.


Portrait of the founder of Loft Candy Company William Loft
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In the roaring twenties, as America was reveling in postwar prosperity, industry epitomized the commercial zeitgeist of the era.

And standing atop the candy world was Loft, Inc.

Founded in 1860 as a modest candy shop in Lower Manhattan by English immigrant William Loft, the company grew over the next six decades into a confectionary empire under the leadership of Loft’s son, George W. Loft.

By the 1920s, Loft, Inc. lorded over the candy market, having aggressively expanded its manufacturing operations and retail footprint.

The company operated several large factories in New York City pumping out a prolific 350 different sweet treats. It then distributed its candy products through company-owned stores and other retailers across 15 northeastern states, from New England to the Midwest.

At the heart of Loft Inc.’s operations was its industrial complex in Long Island City, comprising ten massive factory and office buildings churning out chocolate, caramels, peppermints, and more round-the-clock.

This centralized location allowed Loft to efficiently distribute its indulgences to the company's chain of candy shops, as well as newsstands, grocers, and other vendors in the bustling metropolis of New York and Newark.

Through vertical integration and domination of America’s sweet tooth, Loft, Inc secured its place as the largest candy purveyor of its day.

The company represented the boundless prosperity of Jazz Age consumerism, when America developed a voracious appetite for both sugar and success.


an old bottle of Pepsi
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As the leader of candy companies in the early 20th century, Loft, Inc. was an attractive partner in the era's wave of corporate consolidations.

In 1941, PepsiCo came courting, seeking to diversify its portfolio beyond soft drinks by merging with the confectionary giant. After months of negotiations, Loft agreed to an acquisition offer, culminating in a formal agreement filed in Wilmington, Delaware in June 1941.

The deal joined two prominent names in American consumerism, bringing PepsiCo's distribution and marketing muscle together with Loft’s manufacturing and retail operations.

It also provided synergies, with Loft standing to benefit from Pepsi’s bottling plants and trucking fleets for wider candy distribution, while Pepsi gained shelf space in Loft’s stores.

However, while complimentary on paper, in practice the two companies made for an odd couple.

The merger was short-lived, with Loft Candy Corporation spun back off later that year.

The divorce proved prudent, as both brands went on to prosper in the coming decades by focusing on their core products. Still, for a brief period in 1941, the merged Pepsi-Loft entity represented the first corporate mega-merger between food and beverage giants.

It remains one of the more curious footnotes in American business history.


Portrait of Albert Greenfield
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Loft Candy Corporation’s independence from PepsiCo would prove fleeting.

In 1941, the company caught the eye of Philadelphia retail tycoon Albert M. Greenfield.

An innovator who had built a small tailor shop into the mammoth City Stores Company (CSCo) chain, Greenfield saw potential in Loft’s well-known candy brand. CSCo swiftly acquired the company in 1941.

Under its new parent, Loft Candy expanded prolifically over the next two decades.

CSCo installed its own management team to aggressively grow Loft's production capacity and retail footprint.

By the late 1950s, Loft Candy’s ranks had swelled to over 2,000 employees cranking out 350 distinct sweet treats. Its candy was now sold through company-owned stores and external retailers across fifteen Northeastern and Midwestern states.

Buoying this rapid growth was CSCo’s retail infrastructure and Greenfield’s strategic acumen.

With CSCo’s capital and direction, Loft Candy opened large outlets in major subway stations, leveraged cross-selling through CSCo department stores, and launched products tailored to new markets.

Sweet success followed, making Loft a candy powerhouse once again.


Loft Candy store in the 1950s
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By 1958, a century after its founding as a small Manhattan candy shop, Loft’s had grown into a candy empire under the bold leadership of the City Stores Company.

Loft’s production facilities and retail outlets spanned over a dozen Northeastern and Midwestern states. Its ranks had swollen to 2,100 employees churning out a prolific 350 different candies, chocolates, and sweets.

The company’s colossal factory complex in Long Island City operated around the clock, producing caramels, peppermints, taffies, and other delicacies by the ton.

Its wares could be found on the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Washington D.C., and as far west as Ohio and Illinois. Customers could enjoy Loft’s sweets not just through the brand’s shops, but also via major CSCo department stores and independent retailers.

Loft’s also opened glitzy outlets in prime locations like Manhattan’s renowned Fifth Avenue shopping district, as well as major subway stations, malls, and more.

Between accessible retail, expanded production capacity, and distribution over half the country, Loft had reached an apex few candy makers could rival by the late 1950s.

Its abundant confections and 2,100 dutiful employees made the Loft Candy Corporation a veritable sweet empire in post-war America.


Loft, Inc on trial
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In 1939, Loft’s found itself in a bitter legal battle with a former executive that grabbed headlines and set precedent.

The case, Guth v. Loft, Inc., saw company president Charles Guth sue his former employer for wrongfully terminating his employment contract. However, Loft contended it had ample cause to oust its former vice president.

The drama stemmed from Guth’s role in an aggressive advertising campaign Loft launched in the mid-1930s against its competitors.

The ads disparaged rival candy makers for using cheaper ingredients like glucose. However the Federal Trade Commission deemed the ads misleading, ordering Loft to cease and desist.

When Loft’s board discovered Guth’s leading role in the smear campaign, it promptly fired him for disloyalty.

Guth then sued Loft for $100,000 in compensation.

Yet the court sided with Loft, ruling the company justified in removing an executive who knowingly subjected it to liability.

The dramatic case and Loft’s victory made headlines while also establishing precedents in corporate governance.

It serves as a prime example of 1940s-era rulings checking executives’ power in favor of corporate boards and owners.


Loft Candy store in the 1960s
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Though Loft Candy reached sweet success under City Stores Company in the 1950s and 1960s, the good times would not last.

Over the next few decades, Loft endured significant turmoil and decline under a revolving door of owners.

The upheaval began in the late 1960s when City Stores Company itself was acquired by Congoleum Corporation.

Then in 1971, Southland Corporation purchased Loft Candy as part of its efforts to diversify from gas stations and convenience stores. However Southland struggled to manage the candy company, leading it to merge Loft with another acquired brand, Barricini Candies, in 1972.

This constant state of flux took its toll on the company.

Southland closed over 30 Loft and Barricini stores nationwide in 1973 during a restructuring. Then in 1976, Southland divested Loft-Barricini completely by selling the struggling entity to relative upstart B.L. Candy Company. However this proved yet another short and ill-fated ownership stint.

The continuous ownership changes and lack of consistent leadership destroyed continuity and accumulation of candy-making expertise.

By 1988, all remaining Loft retail stores had closed, followed by the termination of its production operations in 1994 after over 130 years in business. The lost brand serves as a cautionary example of how success today offers no guarantee of survival tomorrow.


Loft Candy Company out of business
© History Oasis

After standing as America’s largest and most innovative candy producer for much of the early 20th century, the once-mighty Loft’s empire came to an end in 1994.

Beset by years of turmoil and decline, the company closed its last retail stores in 1988 as production slowed to a halt. In 1994, Loft ceased operations completely, closing the book on a brand that had brought sweet joy to generations.

Loft’s downfall represented a bittersweet end for an iconic candy pioneer. From its first shop opened on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1860, Loft’s had grown into a ubiquitous name in quality confections.

Even through changes in ownership and leadership, for over 130 years Loft’s scrumptious treats like chocolate nonpareils and sugar cream mints satisfied America’s collective sweet tooth.

However, Loft ultimately failed to preserve its founders’ recipe for success.

The brand withstood the Great Depression yet couldn’t survive the tumultuous corporate restructuring era of the 1960s through 1980s.

After passing through the hands of multiple large conglomerates focused on short-term profits over candy-making craft, Loft slowly lost relevance and customers.

By 1994, with no stores left and factories dark, Loft joined the ranks of once-innovative brands made obsolete by the unforgiving march of time and capitalism.