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Made in Baltimore

Small manufacturers that remain found different paths to success

December 30, 2010

Guenschel and Vice President Cynthia Shaffer credit their success to quality control, a focus on the company's core business and passionate employees. They don't disclose financial results.

Although the display cases might be considered works of art in themselves, Guenschel and Shaffer say the goal is to draw attention to the objects inside. "If the case becomes invisible," Shaffer said, "then we have done our job."

—Edward Gunts

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

Goetze's Candy Co.

For more than a century, Goetze's Candy Co. has been quietly going about its sweet business: making the trademark Caramel Creams and Cow Tales at its East Baltimore factory.

Goetze's got its start when August Goetze bought the Baltimore Chewing Gum Company in 1895. The company changed its name in 1958 to reflect the family business, which was built around the signature caramel treats wrapped around a white fondant center. Today, a fifth generation of the Goetze family runs the company, which distributes worldwide.

"Goetze's product represents an authentic Baltimore experience," said Mike Galiazzo, executive director of the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland. "Goetze's is to candy what Phillips is to crabs."

But while the company has a robust website recounting its 115-year history and a Facebook page with nearly 40,000 fans who "like" the Baltimore candy maker, the Goetze family has shied away from publicity. Company executive Mitchell Goetze declined to be interviewed, explaining in an e-mail: "We are a very private company.

"It's not that we are not proud of what we have been doing in Baltimore, but a matter of maintaining our humble start and just staying quiet over here on the east side," Goetze wrote.

The company makes all of its candies at its factory on East Monument Street and proudly promotes a "Made in the USA" distinction on its website. The Goetze family, the site says, takes pride in buying materials in the U.S. whenever possible, regardless of price, to support American companies and adhere to strict food safety guidelines.

Goetze's Candy introduced its individually wrapped caramels in 1918. The company's other well-known candy is Cow Tales, a Twizzlers-like version of Caramel Creams that come in flavors like strawberry, vanilla and chocolate.

As for the company's longevity, Mitchell Goetze gave a hint at the secret in the Confectioner trade magazine several years ago, in which he said the prevailing wisdom has been "to grow like an oak tree — slow and steady."

—Hanah Cho

hanah.cho@baltsun.com

Ray Machine Inc.

Discerning waiters can tell the difference between an authentic table crumber invented in Baltimore and knockoffs made for less in China.

That's one of the first things Daniel P. Solomon, general manager of Ray Machine Inc. in Middle River where the crumber is made, will tell you about the little curved strips of aluminum that for decades have scraped messy linen-clad tables between courses, adding a touch of class to diners' experience.

"The waiters recognize how nice ours are," Solomon said of servers in area restaurants who appreciate the homegrown product. "It's really true. Ours is the best."

All the crumbs have added up to about $85,000 in annual crumber sales for Middle River-based Ray Machine, a metals manufacturer with some $8 million in annual sales supplying companies such as IBM, Lockheed Martin and GE Aerospace.

"It's a small piece of our business, but an important one," Solomon said.

The crumber was invented in 1939 by John Henry Miller, owner of Miller Brothers Restaurant, a fixture on West Fayette Street until 1963. Miller wanted to create a device for his restaurant that could be conveniently carried in a pocket and less cumbersome than the brush and crumb pan favored at the time. He was granted a patent in 1941.

Ray Machine got involved in the crumber business when a former owner bought the patent and slightly redesigned the product to make it easier to mass-produce.

Today, Ray Machine sells about 85,000 crumbers a year at 60 cents to $1 apiece, depending upon quantity, and ships the products worldwide in the original silver as well as six other colors.

This year, the company started farming out some production work, but workers in Middle River still attach the clips by punch press — at a pace of eight to 10 a minute — and then laser engraves logos.

While some customers are restaurants, bigger orders tend to come from corporations and institutions looking to display their logo on a promotional product. Such customers have included MasterCard, a Geneva hotel and a culinary institute.

Even with no advertising, the customers keep coming. (Though the Internet, where crumbers can be purchased by the dozen, has helped.)

"We've never promoted it," Solomon said. "This is sold solely on word of mouth."

—Lorraine Mirabella

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

Vanns Spices Ltd.

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