Family's sweet tradition Glauber's: For 121 years, four generations of the Baltimore clan have turned out a variety of confections here -- but chocolate is the company's lifeblood.

March 27, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

The chocolate bunnies just keep multiplying at the white Victorian house near Towson.

The rabbits, with such names as Oliver, Molly, Max and Fluffy, are everywhere -- on shelves, counters, even on the tiny back porch -- waiting for their marching orders to area malls. By Sunday, most will be nestled in grass-filled wicker Easter baskets.

For the Glauber family, the annual bunny trail is part of a family candy-making tradition that began in 1876 in a south Baltimore ++ townhouse and moved to the Anneslie neighborhood in Baltimore County in 1936. Glauber's Fine Candies Inc., now in its fourth generation, calls itself "America's oldest family-owned retail confectioner."

For weeks, the residence-turned-candy-factory on Regester Avenue, marked only by a small, green sign on the front lawn, has been bustling with activity.

"We really drive for the holiday season," said Treasurer Peter Glauber, 34, who usually arrives at work at 7: 30 a.m. to start melting the day's chocolate in three large vats and a smaller one.

As the pots heat, the scent of chocolate permeates the air.

"You get immune to it," laughed Joyce Hafko, who has been the company's only packer for a decade. "People say, 'You smell like Hershey Kisses,' and you don't even notice it."

She is one of eight manufacturing employees who work in the house once occupied by Peter Glauber's late grandparents, Miriam and Howard G. Glauber Sr., son of founder John H. Glauber.

For 121 years, chocolate has been the lifeblood of the Glaubers, who produce an array of filled chocolates as well as Easter and other holiday candies. Their treats can be found in retail stores at Security Square Mall, Eastpoint Mall, Towson Town Center, Yorkridge Shopping Center in Timonium and Harford Mall in Bel Air.

This year, the Glaubers expect to sell almost 6,000 pounds of Easter candy. Retail Confectioners International, a nonprofit trade group in Glenview, Ill., estimates that about $875 million worth of Easter candy will be sold nationwide for the day that ranks third in the sweets business behind Christmas and Halloween.

Since its beginnings as a one-man operation on South Hanover Street, Glauber's has grown to 70 employees, including five family members.

"We're definitely hands-on people," said Peter Glauber, whose work attire includes a chocolate-streaked apron and white cap. "It's just part of the business, whether it's delivering or filling orders. It's kind of neat when someone comes into the store and a Glauber is there."

The family connection also is a reason the Glaubers don't want to move their enterprise from the cramped current quarters to a larger commercial area.

"There's a lot of tradition being in this house," said Glauber, who started helping in the business when he was 6. "If we moved into an industrial park, we'd lose that family atmosphere."

Today, the living room serves as the packing area, where Hafko was filling chocolate baskets with candies on a recent day; the hallway with stained-glass windows held boxes of all sizes; the ,, dining room had shelves stacked with cream-filled eggs and a half-dozen Olivers, the company's largest rabbit -- an impressive solid-chocolate, 8-pound, 20-inch version that sells for $50.

"We try to name them and personalize them," said Glauber, adding that Oliver was named after a friend's dog.

While Oliver was made in a metal mold, the other holiday chocolates -- 15 kinds of bunnies, along with Corvette cars, motorcycles, religious crosses, chicks and turtles -- are formed in clear fiberglass molds in the basement, cooled and then decorated.

Kenneth Glauber, 66, Peter's father and the company's retired president, still pitches in during peak seasons.

He reminisces about selling Glauber's candy at the Cross Street Market as a child, when the confections were sold at several city markets. He explains that when his grandfather, John, started the business in 1876, "Baltimore was really a candy-manufacturing town."

The Glaubers relocated to the county when their customer base started to move out of the old neighborhood, he said. Until the family opened the first retail store in 1963 in Yorkridge, patrons came to the tidy house with a wrap-around porch to buy delectable chocolate creams and jellies from a counter in the basement.

Peter Glauber acknowledges that the nation's fitness-and-nutrition craze has affected candy sales in recent years -- but only slightly.

"You always have people who want to treat themselves," he said. "Candy makes you feel better."

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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