A history of Calico Cottage

How one man’s perseverance and vision created a fudge retailing powerhouse.

Calico Cottage has a long history of hard work, perseverance, unwavering commitment to quality and an intense dedication to customers. More than anything else, the core foundation of this family-owned business has always been the deep-seated importance of conducting itself with honesty and integrity.

  • From corporate executive to entrepreneur

    From corporate executive to entrepreneur

    In 1957, Leonard Wurzel followed in the footsteps of his father, Maurice, and became the president of Loft Candy Company, a Long Island City, New York based candy manufacturer and retailer. In 1964, Leonard and several other Loft Candy executives negotiated to purchase the business from its Philadelphia based holding company. When the deal fell through, Leonard and a number of other Loft executives decided to resign.

  • Calico joins a long tradition of basement startups

    Calico joins a long tradition of basement startups

    Leonard teamed up with Claude Barnett, a well-respected candy technologist to start their own company in order to franchise retail candy shops. They named it Calico Cottage Candies. (Barnett sold his interest in 1971.) Operating from an 800 square foot basement in a house in Hewlett, New York, their concept was revolutionary; all the candy would be manufactured at each store, fresh, in full view of the consumer.

  • The first retail location

    The first retail location

    The first Calico Cottage Candies franchised store was located in Hewlett, New York. What made it possible for non-candy makers to succeed was Claude’s inventing a full line of candy mixes that took the guesswork out of making truly fine chocolates. It was a wonderful idea, ten years ahead of its time. Way back in 1964 there was limited availability of good, high traffic retail locations and landlords were reluctant to rent to a small, unproven company.

  • A new business model works…for a while

    A new business model works…for a while

    Around 1969, the partners tried a new business model; operating leased candy departments in Arlan's, a fast-growing mass merchandiser. Operating under the name Watchit Maid, most of the candy was shipped in, but a few items, including fudge, were made on site. This second business model was a success—until a newcomer to the mass merchandise field, K-Mart, crushed Arlan's and almost took down Calico.

  • Calico’s fudge retailing program takes off

    Calico’s fudge retailing program takes off

    While the Watchit Maid venture failed, the important lesson learned was that fudge was something consumers would buy, year-round. Until that point in time, fudge was pretty much a summer-only item. So, Leonard reinvented the business a third time. The company would target existing retailers, helping them to sell fudge year-round by using Calico’s profitable, on-site fresh Fudge Making Retail Program. As with any new concept, Leonard had to work hard to find retailers willing to try it out. A chance meeting on an escalator paved the way for the prestigious, Chicago-based Marshall Field department store to adopt Calico’s fudge retailing program. This was a critical turning point in that doing business with Marshall Field brought credibility to tiny Calico Cottage. “If it’s good enough for ‘Fields’ it’s good enough for me.”

  • Trade shows help Calico’s fudge program catch on

    Trade shows help Calico’s fudge program catch on

    By the mid-1970s, Calico discovered that exhibiting at trade shows was a wonderful way to introduce its still new Fudge Program to a diverse group of ahead-of-the-curve retailers that were looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition.

  • Calico’s expansion

    Calico’s expansion

    In 1980, Calico with its 12 employees moved out of its basement location and into 10,000 square feet in Mineola, New York. Coming from 800 square feet in a basement, Leonard said “We’ll never outgrow this.” In 1988, with 35 employees, Calico added an additional 5,500 square feet.

  • A new generation takes charge of Calico

    A new generation takes charge of Calico

    Leonard retired from Calico in 1992 and his sons took over. Mark, who had been with the company since 1974, became president and Larry, who had been with Calico since 1977 became vice president.

  • Calico expands into new headquarters

    Calico expands into new headquarters

    In 1999, with 49 employees, Calico built and moved into its state-of-the-art 45,000 square foot facility in Amityville, New York. Today, thanks to Leonard Wurzel’s tenacity and vision, the company has grown to 65 employees and is dedicated to servicing its world-wide roster of retailers. Calico’s novel and ever increasing list of innovative fudge flavors, and clever merchandising programs, can be found in such retail venues as theme/amusement parks, tourist gift shops, outdoor stores and department stores…to name a few. Retailers looking to differentiate themselves tell Calico they love the idea of making such a fun product, selling it under their own name, and doing it all right in front of the consumer. Calico’s retailers can be found in all 50 states, every territory and province in Canada as well as Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

  • From corporate executive to entrepreneur
  • Calico joins a long tradition of basement startups
  • The first retail location
  • A new business model works…for a while
  • Calico’s fudge retailing program takes off
  • Trade shows help Calico’s fudge program catch on
  • Calico’s expansion
  • A new generation takes charge of Calico
  • Calico expands into new headquarters

Related

  • Meet Calico Cottage’s Management Team

    Meet Calico Cottage’s Management Team

    Our management team makes sure that every aspect of the company is running smoothly so it can best serve you, our customer. Take a minute to learn about our team, and you’ll see why Calico excels at what we do.

  • History of Fudge

    History of Fudge

    No one knows with certainty who made the first batch of fudge. A purely American invention, most accounts agree it was the result of an accident that occurred while making another confection.