Blair Candy buying W.R. Straw

Two longtime Altoona family-owned businesses are becoming one.

Blair Candy Co., founded in 1939, is purchasing W.R. Straw All-Chem Distribution Inc., founded in 1948. The deal will close on Monday.

Both companies are in the distribution business.

“I approached Bob Straw about a year and a half ago to see if he wanted to merge or sell. After talking to his family, he approached me and said, ‘Let’s do something,'” said Terry Dandrea, Blair Candy vice president. “It was about an eight-month process to come to an agreement.”

Blair Candy is buying Straw’s assets and hiring owners Bob and Mike Straw, an office worker, three drivers and a salesman, Dandrea said.

“We felt they were a company a lot like us, the values we have, the customer base. As a business, it will make us stronger with more customers and a larger product base,” Blair Candy President Pat Dandrea said. “It will be full steam ahead as of Monday. It was a very fair deal for both sides.”

Bob Straw, company vice president, said the timing was right.

“It was just the time to do it with Blair Candy, a well-known company in the area,” he said. “We are bringing our product line with us and the service we provide for our customers. They didn’t do repair work, and they weren’t involved in the chemical end of the business. It was very fair for both sides. I’ve known Terry since high school.”

With Blair Candy, Bob Straw will be a buyer and sales manager and Mike, who served as Straw president, will be a salesperson, Terry Dandrea said.

Blair Candy not only sells candy online but is a full-service wholesale and retail business, selling candy, tobacco products and accessories, paper products, party supplies, bar and restaurant supplies, bingo, games of chance and fundraising candy throughout Pennsylvania.

W.R. Straw was well-known for its coffee break service and supplies, a range of janitorial supplies, including cleaning products, and numerous other products.

“We never had coffee service before. They bring that to the table for us. They come with many years of knowledge in the coffee business,” Pat Dandrea said.

“They have a great reputation in the coffee service business and are experts in the coffee business,” Terry Dandrea said.

Blair Candy, founded by the Dandreas’ grandfather, Patrick, in 1939 on Green Avenue, moved to 1215 Seventh Ave. in 1960 and spent 52 years at that location before moving to the former Imler’s Poultry facility at 3421 Beale Ave. in 2012.

The move gave Blair Candy 48,000 square feet of space compared to 24,000 and gave the company eight loading docks. It had none at the Seventh Avenue location.

“We had outgrown our old building,” Pat Dandrea said. “When we bought this building, we knew we needed to grow it. This helps us fill our building with new products. This wouldn’t have been attainable in the other building.”

“This will bring us about 1,000 new products as a result of this transaction,” Terry Dandrea said.

Bob Straw admitted it was difficult to sell the family business founded by his grandfather, Walter Straw.

“It was hard; my brother and I had built up the business. I have been involved for about 40 years. There was a risk, but we are happy with what will happen there,” Bob Straw said. “The nice thing was with Blair Candy (was) when we talked about our people, they said bring them with you. That is fantastic.”

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.