I grew up in Oak Park - a suburb known for its great architecture, wonderful diversity, and thriving (and ever-evolving) downtown. It truly is a dynamic town, straddling both sides of the always bustling, forever jammed-packed Eisenhower Expressway.
It is that expressway that made it so easy for our family to head eastward into Chicago or westward deeper into suburbia. Whenever we ventured out on the expressway, headed east or west, we couldn't help but become enraptured by the sight and smell of the stately Ferrara Candy Company (originally known as Ferrara Pan Candy Company).
When I was a child, its candies primarily included Lemonheads, Red Hots and Boston Baked Beans, all packaged in small boxes just perfect for little hands to grip tight with delight. Today, although the name has changed and the company tempts me with new and different candy varieties, it's a joy I was glad to share with my sons the other weekend. And, it should come as no surprise that my sons were easily won over by the Ferrara Candy Company's sugar-packed delights.
Sample Ferrara Candy Company Delights Fresh from the Factory
While the company no longer offers tours of its factory, you can still get a glimpse at its whimsical spirit and sample its delights from its on-site factory outlet (7301 W. Harrison Street, Forest Park). It's open to the public Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
On our recent trip to the outlet store, my sons were captivated by the same tiny boxes of Lemonheads, Red Hots and Boston Baked Beans that won me over so many years ago. For just a quarter each (or five for one dollar), they could sample as many flavors as they so desired. They loaded up on the old standbys, but also a few of the new candies the company now produces following a recent merger with Farley’s & Sathers.
After much sampling, they both settled on Lemonheads and Boston Baked Beans as their very favorite ones. I was so proud.
Passing Down a Love of Candy Made in Forest Park
The joy in my sons' delight of the candy made from the factory that has stood watch over the exit to my childhood home off of 290 was infectious - as evidenced by the amount of candy we left the store with last weekend. And, I was glad my New Yorker husband was won over too - especially since it was his idea to visit Ferrara Candy Company, which now follows him on his daily commute to and from the western suburbs.
So, with one trip into the Ferrara Candy Company retail store on one weekend day, the love of the small, brightly colored and oh-so-flavorful candies is reignited within me and passed on to my husband and sons.
With that, I urge all of you to veer off the Eisenhower Expressway at the Harlem Avenue Exit on your next trip by the Ferrara Candy Company factory and delight in a family-owned candy company that has been a fixture in the outskirts of the city for more than 100 years.
Trust me, it will be worth it. Just be sure to buy extra candy and spread the joy around.
What is your favorite Ferrara Candy Company candy? Have you ever been to the retail store? For my fellow Oak Parkers (old and new), does Ferrara Candy Company have a special significance for you? Or, have you shared their candies with your family, friends or neighbors? Share your stories in the comments below.