|Candy maker eyes sweet success|
date: 09/10/1996 Source: The Times
Article Title: Candy maker eyes sweet success.
By: Karen Caffarini
HOBART - If Scott Albanese fulfills his dream, Hobart soon may become a vacation destination for candyaholics everywhere.
Albanese, who owns Albanese Nut and Candy Co. in Merrillville, is looking to expand his business by opening a large chocolate factory/retail operation in Hobart that he likens to a Willie Wonka factory.
“This will be experimental, kind of like Willie Wonka in the movie,” he said.
He plans to install a chocolate waterfall and a taffy-pulling machine that rewards guests who pull the crank 100 times. But the factory/store will be more than just fun, it will be educational, too.
“I’m going to make the factory like a rain forest, lined with cocoa bean and cashew plants,” he said. “People will actually be able to see how a cocoa bean grows.
“The storefront will have a Disney-like quality, but the business will be geared toward the making of chocolate and there will be educational tours, as well,” he added.
Albanese and his Realtor, David Lasser of Commercial In-Sites are appearing tonight before the Hobart Plan Commission to seek rezoning from the residential to business to build the factory/outlet store on 7.5 acres on U.S. 30, between Clay Street and Grand Boulevard.
Albanese wants to subdivide another 7 acres into four commercial lots that he hopes would house similar operations, that is, businesses that make a product on-site, then sell some of the product through an outlet store at the building. The five-lot subdivision would be called Enterprise Park.
Also tonight, Albanese and Lasser will present to the Board of Zoning Appeals their request for a land use variance to allow retail, food processing and distribution operations on the same site.
Albanese is in the process of negotiating a land purchase from Northern Indiana Public Service Co., utility company spokesman Tom Dominquez said.
Dominquez said the almost 15 acres that would make up Enterprise Park are a little less than half of the 31 total acres the utility company owns in that area. The remainder of the property is not for sale at this time, he said.
Albanese said he plans to build a 20,000-square-foot-building at the Hobart site, combining his current warehouse space in Crown Point and a 5,000-square-foot operation in South Bend where he makes a few specialty items. However, he will keep open the 12,000-square-foot factory/retail operation on 81st Avenue in Merrillville, where he will continue to make nut meats.
Albanese hopes to break ground at the U.S. 30 site around the first of the new year.
He said his company, which started in 1983 with four employees, now has 28 employees. That number will grow along with the new building, but Albanese didn’t know by how much.
He said his full-line chocolate and nut company ships its products to candy retailers in 40 states. He said while most candy consumers will not correlate the name Albanese with chocolate and nuts, candy store owners do.
“None of our products are sold on grocery store shelves so people wouldn’t know our name. But stop in any candy store, and they will know us,” he said.
Albanese said he is already giving tours at his current shop, mostly to out-of-town groups.
“I’ve got 600 people booked during the next three weeks, and I don’t even advertise that I do tours,” he said.
He expects that number to grow substantially in the new, larger building.
“I want to build something that will make the industry sit up and take notice,” he said. “And I think this will be a big plus for Northwest Indiana, too.”
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