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McCord Candies red-and-white treats sell out during holidays soon after they re made

LAFAYETTE, Ind. - It took just 20 minutes for McCord Candies to sell a fresh batch of 500 handmade candy canes.
Jeanie Davis was one of the fortunate few, leaving the quaint downtown corner shop last Thursday, her arms loaded with 30 candy canes as well as some chocolate turtles -- called "snappers" at McCord.
So what's the big deal with McCord and its candy canes?
"Nostalgia," said Davis, a Lafayette resident. "Great candy."
That's the combination that McCord's owner, 26-year-old Michael Becker, hopes is the recipe for continued success and growth. Becker said he plans to keep McCord just the way it is. But he also is looking for ways to increase sales and broaden the customer base.
"There's not many places like this," Becker said. "I've always said, if you walk in here today, it's the same as it was in 1912."
That's the year the store opened as Glatz Candies; its name was changed to McCord Candies in the 1950s. Little has changed over the decades.
Red-and-white awnings adorn the corner storefront on Main Street. Inside, a long candy counter offers an array of chocolate and candy treats. Coke signs hang from the walls.
This is a place where you get a side of deviled eggs with your sandwich and wash it down with a cherry Coke or even a marshmallow Coke from the soda fountain.
But candy canes are the hot item.
"That's the biggest thing we have," Becker said.
He said McCord sold about 23,000 of the 24,000 candy canes made in 2005, his first Christmas as the store's owner. This year, Becker said he hopes to sell all of the 25,000 to 26,000 candy canes made. They go for $1.50 each.
Since buying the store last year, Becker has taken several steps to boost sales and raise McCord's profile. He launched a Web site, He paid for a billboard, which sits atop a candy-cane painted pole at I-65 and Ind. 26 on the edge of Lafayette.
Patrons also can buy red McCord T-shirts with "Soda Jerk" written across the back.
He is considering offering candy canes - usually available only at Christmastime - in heart shapes for Valentine's Day. And Becker said he eventually might consider opening a branch location, perhaps in Indianapolis or Carmel.
But for now, the main task is to produce candy canes.
As customers wander in asking if any are left, the crew upstairs is busy whipping up the next batch. It's labor-intensive work.
First, sugar, water and other ingredients are heated on a gas-fueled stove to around 300 degrees. Flavoring is added and a piece is cut off and dyed red to make the famous stripes.
The mixture is cooled and worked into a blob before being placed onto a metal hook for pulling, until it cools more and turns white.
The batch then is formed into a loaf shape, with the red portion layered in to form the stripes.
Then employee Alex Dimitt, 21, begins to twist and pull the mixture into the form of a cane. Others cut the sections and bend them to give each candy cane its crook.
Dimitt, a Purdue University student, sees the process as a sort of art form. "If the temperature is not exactly right, then it turns pink instead of red and white," he said.
Dressed in a suit and tie, Becker looks out of place next to his jeans-and-T-shirt-clad employees. He dropped by McCord on Thursday from his full-time job as a driver supervisor at UPS.
Becker said it has been a challenge balancing his job with the demands of owning a business. He calls the store modestly profitable, with the candy canes as the big moneymaker. He declined to reveal McCord's finances or how much he paid for the store.
He credits the work of his 10 employees and manager, who keep in regular touch with him, even when he's somewhere else. "I get a lot of voice mail all day," he added.
Becker fell in love with the store while he was a student at Purdue. He and his then-girlfriend, Melissa, now his wife, stopped in regularly for lunch. For Becker, it was always the same: a chicken salad sandwich, side of deviled eggs and a vanilla Coke.
He got to know McCord's previous owners, Thomas and Rita Quattrocchi, and asked that if they ever planned to sell the store to approach him first. That time came last year.
"The thing we told him when we left is please do not change anything in this place," Rita said. She and her husband ran McCord for nine years before retiring and moving to Fishers to be closer to family.
"He just really cared about the store," she said. "It was just nice that we sold it to someone who cared about the store."
Rita added that the employees stayed on through the transition.
This holiday season, Becker said he was at McCord early in the morning before work and then again in the evening to help keep up with demand. Long hours are nothing new to Becker, who worked two jobs to pay for college.
"Obviously," he said Thursday, "I haven't done any Christmas shopping."

Source: IndyStar.com

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