A sweet reward

Altoona Candy and Tobacco to become Business Hall of Fame’s Heritage Hall honoree

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Dave Binus shows off part of his collection of candy machines that his company supplied to customers of Altoona Candy and Tobacco. Altoona Candy and Tobacco will be inducted into the Heritage Hall of Fame category by the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame on Monday at the Blair County Convention Center.

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series on businesses that will be inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame on Monday at the Blair County Convention Center.

Altoona Candy and Tobacco was good to the Binus family.

“It was a good business to be in. It helped put my two brothers through college,” said David Binus, whose father, Jack, was involved in the business from 1960 until 1993.

Altoona Candy and Tobacco will be one of five businesses inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame on Monday at the Blair County Convention Center.

“It is a nice honor to have. My Dad put his heart and soul into it. It was his baby,” Binus said.

Altoona Candy and Tobacco is the Heritage Hall of Fame honoree.

Businesses must have operated for at least 25 years to be considered. The heritage category recognizes entities that were in business for at least 25 years and have been closed for at least 10 years. Other criteria include what the business did for the community, employment, expansions, what products the company made and its participation in community events.

Altoona Candy and Tobacco was a wholesale candy and tobacco company. It bought and distributed all kinds of candy, gum, confections, sundry products, stationary supplies, light food items for lunch counters and bars, Coca Cola syrup, paper products, cigarettes, cigars, tobacco and related items.

Altoona Candy and Tobacco was founded in 1943 by Harold Conrad at 10th Street and Chestnut Avenue. Eugene “Doc” Marshall took over in the late 1940s.

In 1951, Sam Bruder, Abe Chinn and Rudy Feldman formed a partnership and purchased the company. Bruder was the manager until Chinn bought Bruder and Feldman out in 1959.

In 1959, Abe Chinn/Altoona Candy bought out the Felty Candy Co. and moved from its Chestnut Avenue location to 707 Green Ave. The business operated at that location until the state bought the property to build the 10th Avenue Expressway. The business was moved to 300 Chestnut Ave., the former Shaffer Bakery building.

Jack Binus was hired in 1960 as the general manager. In 1969, he bought the business from Chinn, and operated it until he passed away in 1993.

In the 1960s, businesses like Altoona Candy and Tobacco were known as “jobbers,” and had exclusive master distributorship of particular products, Binus said.

Altoona Candy and Tobacco had exclusive rights to Candy Cupboard Chocolates, Brach’s Candy, Dutch Master Cigars, King Edward Cigars, Swisher Sweets Cigars, Robert Burns Cigars and others. At one time, the business was the distributor for Coca Cola syrup along the East Coast, Binus said.

Altoona Candy and Tobacco sold primarily to bars, taverns, confectionary stores, colleges, universities, hospitals, VFW Posts, American Legion Halls, private social clubs and other business that sold the items that the company carried. Clients were within a 50-mile radius of Altoona.

Gables, Woolworth’s, McCrory’s, Bob Estep’s Corner Store in Williamsburg, Ingram’s Store, Sis’ Variety, Paul’s Market in Juniata and Seward’s Drug Store were among the customers.

“We sold one quarter million dollars’ worth of cigarettes to Penn State back in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” Binus said.

Binus said Altoona Candy and Tobacco competed with Blair Candy.

“Blair Candy bought products from us. Up through the 1960s, they had to buy certain tobacco products from us, and we bought different products from them,” Binus said. “It was a friendly competition.”

Altoona Candy and Tobacco played a key role in the community.

“Like so many of the former businesses that have been recipients of the Heritage Hall of Fame Award, Altoona Candy and Tobacco was an integral part of the wholesale and retail element within the local business community that made Altoona a destination for people from throughout the region. Much of the growth that took place here was spurred by companies like this one,” said president/CEO Joe Hurd of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce.

In 1972, Altoona Candy and Tobacco was named Distributor of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of Candy and Tobacco Distributors.

“That’s when Dad did a good job just on serving customers and buying different products and providing new services for our customers,” Binus said.

A fire on Dec. 21, 1973, which burned 50 percent of the building and its contents, eventually led to the downfall of the business, Binus said.

“We lost a lot of candy. We were out of business for about two weeks. It just took a toll financially. We had to regroup and go smaller. We weren’t the driving force in the area any longer,” Binus said.

The company, which had about 20 employees back in the 1960s, succeeded by “having a product, getting it to people at a decent price and getting it to them in a timely manner,” Binus said.

“It was just a good wholesome company. We also prided ourselves on taking care of the customers. The customer was always right. We gave them good products at a fair price in a friendly manner,” Binus said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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