Claey’s Candy: Making Life Sweet Since 1919

Claeys Sugared Hard Candy
Claeys Sugared Hard Candy

Lehman’s is proud to carry so many “Made In The USA” products. This fall, Country Life visited a few of these vendors, and got a behind-the-scenes look at how the magic happens. CL’s blog editor shares her tour at Claey’s Candies. Pick up your favorite flavors at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or order them online at Lehmans.com.

Claey's Candy building
Since 1919, this has been the home of great candy!

Claey’s Candy was my first stop on the Fall 2013 USA Vendor Tour. And what a stop it was! Those rumors you hear about elves making candy? They must have learned it from Claeys. Starting in 1919, the company has been turning out tons of their signature hard candies in horehound, root beer, and nine other old-school and favorite flavors.

Brian Machalleck, Vice President of Production, showed me around the vintage building, which was packed full of candymakers getting products ready for the holiday season.

Claey's Sugared Hard Candies sugar
Claey’s VP Brian Machalleck with a two thousand pound bag of pure cane sugar, used to make and sand Claey’s hard candies.

“Normally, we have 19 core employees on two shifts,” he said, but “now we have our seasonal folks in too, so we have about 45 people in here.”

And those 45 folks make a whole lot of the sweet stuff. “We make about 15 to 16 thousand pounds a day, in what’s called a continous cook operation.” Two shifts of candymakers keep the hard candy line going 16 hours a day.

Machalleck explained that much of the candy base is made and kept hot, so it can be portioned out as needed, with natural flavorings and colors added.

As he described the processes, and we went through the candy factory, employees approached him. Issues or questions were resolved immediately, right then and there. It was plain to see that this was a collaborative place, where everyone felt free to snag the boss and ask a question. Machalleck himself clocks hours on the production floor.

And although there were a lot of things CL couldn’t see, Machalleck did say this: “We use pure, natural flavors in all our candies. And for our hard candies, we extract the flavors for the herbal ones right here, with locally purchased ingredients so they’re always fresh.” Then he made CL swear not to tell exactly how the extraction happens…so we’ll leave that up to your imagination!

Gregg of Claeys Sugared Hard Candies
Third-generation owner Gregg Claey with barrels of bulk hard candies that are ready to ship.

“I’ve been here 16 years, and I’ve done every job, and still fill in when we need it,” Machalleck said. “We’ve been a family company for 95 years, and that means everyone who’s here. A lot of pride and care goes into every pound of candy that we make.”

Third generation owner Gregg Claey joined us on partway through the tour, and his pride in the product, the people who work with him, and the family tradition are obvious. “My grandfather started the business, and I worked here with my dad as soon as I was old enough. Right now, we have two sets of brothers and a mother and son who work with us. We’re all invested. And we love making candy.”

And every pound of it is made right here in America.

Claey's Lemon Drops
Lemon candies race from the former to the cooling tunnel at Claey’s.
Claeys Sugared Hard Candies Lemon
Cooled and separated candies are sanded with sugar and head to packaging.
Claeys Sugared Hard Candies Lemon
Each tote holds 50 pounds of hard candies.
Claeys Sugared Hard Candies
The last of a run of Claey’s cinnamon candies are packed for shipping.
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