Here's Your Valentine's Day Reminder Of Iconic Candies Made In Kansas City

Feb 14, 2018

OK, so we're not Hershey, Pennsylvania.

But Kansas City has a respectable history of candy-making. We all know about Russell Stover, but several other vintage candies are, or have been, made in the area, and there's no better time than Valentine's Day for making note of that legacy. 

Love them or hate them, these are confectionary standards that your great-grandparents might have bought (for a nickel).

Cherry Mash 
Chase Candy Company, St. Joseph, Missouri

Cherry Mash

Cherry Mash — a mound of mashed maraschino cherries covered in chocolate and crushed peanuts — is at the top of our list because it turns 100 this year.

At one time the Chase Candy Company in St. Joseph made a bunch of different candy bars, but the Mash is the only one that remains.

Chase Candy Company President Barry Yantis says the candy is unusual for a few reasons: It's the only "mound" that's a candy-bar (as far as he knows);  there are actual recipes on the wrapper (Cherry Mash Milkshake and Cherry Mash Sundae); and it may be the only candy made with real fruit.

"How many candy bars are there that can say they have real cherries in them?" he wonders.

Valomilk
Sifers Valomilk Company, Merriam, Kansas

Sifers Valomilk

Sifers Valomilk Company started in 1903 in Iola, Kansas, about 100 miles southwest of Kansas City. Thirteen years later, it moved to Kansas City. Today,  fifth-generation David Sifers still makes Valomilk in a Merriam, Kansas factory with the original family recipe.

The quintessential vintage Kansas City confection, Valomilk was an accident, according to the company website.

"In those days, real vanilla had a large alcohol content and candy makers were known to take a few snorts now and then. One day, a candy maker named Tommy got a little carried away with the vanilla while making marshmallow and ruined a batch. Instead of setting up after cooling, the marshmallow remained runny!" 

The gooey stuff was poured into chocolate cups and Valomilk was born.

Russell Stovers
Kansas City, Missouri

Russell Stover has probably been the candy company most associated with Kansas City. The company actually got its start in the Denver kitchen of Mr. Russell Stover and his wife Clara in 1923. Nine years later, it moved operations to Kansas City, one of several cities in which its business had expanded.

Several years ago, Lindt & Sprungli bought Russell Stover for $1.5 billion and has reportedly boosted North American sales.

Today, as many consumers are embracing a more healthy lifestyle, Russell Stover is looking to be an industry leader in sugar free candies.

Bogdon Reception Sticks

Bogdon's Mint Reception Sticks were custom made by Walter Bogdon for a wedding in 1945.
Credit Courtesy photo / candywarehouse.com

The chocolate-covered candy sticks Walter Bogdon created for a bride in 1945 became widely popular and ultimately shipped worldwide.

A Polish native, Bogdon began work in Kansas City in the candy department of the Loose Wiles Biscuit Company. He then started his own hand-made candy business in Joplin, Missouri, before moving to Fairway, Kansas at the end of World War II. He marketed custom candies to high-profile Kansas Citians and became well known as a gourmet confectioner.

Today, Bogdon Candy Co. Inc. is a subsidiary of Richardson Brands Company and its products are available mostly on line.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer. Reach her via Twitter, @laurazig or email lauraz@kcur.org.

Matt Grobe is an intern with KCUR's Central Standard.