Naron, Mary Sue confirm merger Candy: Naron Candy Co. and Mary Sue Candies say their merger will result in no lost jobs and no money changing hands

Confections

June 19, 1996|By Abbe Gluck | Abbe Gluck,SUN STAFF

For Naron Candy Co. and Mary Sue Candies, the decision was clear: Join forces or be blown away by competitors.

The two companies, which have been in Baltimore for half a century, confirmed yesterday that they merged May 17. They said they had been planning to defer the announcement until early July.

The alliance, which both sides called a "50-50 deal," will result in no lost jobs and no money changing hands, the companies said.

"Nobody is taking over anybody, and nobody's buying anything or selling anything," said Mary Sue President Mark Berman.

"This is not about firing, but about two companies that are too small to compete in 1996," Berman said. "You can be a basement manufacturer or you can be a Hershey or a Mars, but it's really hard to be mid-sized."

Naron and Mary Sue started talking because they had the markets, but not the facilities, to produce more candy, said Naron President Murph Scherr. The companies said they are a "good match" because they are busy at different times of the year.

For example, Mary Sue does not use all its equipment between September and December, which are Naron's busiest months. "Naron is not even completely filling its orders during those months," Berman said.

Naron distributes 80 kinds of its own candies to about 95 percent of the gourmet outlets in the mid-Atlantic region, said Jim Ross, who founded Naron with Gerald Naron in 1945. Ross currently is a consultant to Naron and will continue in that capacity for the combined company.

Naron also distributes candy across the region for more than 100 companies, including Lindt and Peregina.

Mary Sue sells mainstream consumer candies to chains from Florida to Maine, including Kmart Corp. and Giant Food Inc. Its Easter-egg jingle is a familiar tune to most Baltimoreans. Both men stressed that the companies will maintain their own identities.

"We're basically two different lines," Scherr said. "We've stressed to our customers that Naron's quality will not be impaired -- we'll just be able to streamline."

Berman also said his product won't be changing.

"People are worried our Easter eggs will disappear," he said. "People who grew up with them worry they won't be able to give their kids what they had."

Although some of their products overlap, both men said neither company will stop producing any of its candies or change its recipes. Naron and Mary Sue will also continue to trade under separate names.

All candy production for the new company will take place in the Mary Sue plant at 707 S. Caton Ave. The combined company is moving its storage and distribution facilities to a new location in Hampden, at the Clipper Mill Industrial Park.

Scherr, 53, will be president of the new company and Berman, vice president, a decision they said was based on their ages. Berman, who is 31, said he will "have time to run the company later."

Naron will also be included in Mary Sue's plans to build a $3 million candy museum at the Inner Harbor, Berman said.

Berman is negotiating with the Baltimore Development Corp. to open a 16,000-square-foot hands-on candy factory on the second floor of the city-owned Brokerage complex at Market Place, said Sharon Grinnell, development director at the BDC.

Naron and Mary Sue customers responded positively.

One shop owner said she might buy Mary Sue Candies for her store if Naron, the company with which she now deals, suggested it.

"Mary Sue sells their candy in the Giant supermarkets, so they never come here," said Mary Chizmada, who owns the Candy Box in Catonsville. "But if Naron came and approached me with something [from Mary Sue] I like, I would go with Naron's recommendation."

Mary Sue was founded in 1948 by Berman's grandfather, Samuel "Sacha" Spector. Spector, who died last June, knew about the pending merger before his death, Berman said. Berman has been president of Mary Sue since 1993.

The companies would not disclose their individual or expected combined revenues.

Naron employs 46 people, while Mary Sue employs 18. During the Christmas crunch, Berman and Scherr said, the combined company will employ about 110 workers.

Pub Date: 6/19/96

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