Paul F. Beich Candy Co.

The Paul F. Beich Candy Co. made a variety of treats at a west side factory before it was destroyed in a 2005 fire.

karen hansen | khansen@pantagraph.com

Paul F. Beich made Bloomington a sweeter place.

Beich founded a sugar-coated dynasty that included such timeless confections as Laffy Taffy, Katydids and Golden Clusters. Sweet success started with hard work as an immigrant teen at a downtown Bloomington confectionery begun in 1854 by J.L. Green, a stint as a traveling salesman for a St. Louis candy company, and a return to Bloomington to buy the candy store of his youth.

Beich and a partner convinced candy czar Milton Hershey to move manufacturing for his Lancaster Caramel Co. from Chicago to a vacant buggy factory at Front and Lumber streets. By about 1905, the two partners were gone and Beich was running the Paul F. Beich Candy Co. Soon it had hundreds of employees.

In the 1920s, Beich’s sold chocolate-peanut-marshmallow bars touted as “Whiz – Best nickel candy there iz-z.” Its nutritional survival bars were given to soldiers and astronauts. In 1967, another factory on the city’s southwest side opened; it’s still used today.

Beich’s descendants remained at the helm until the business was sold to Nestle in 1984. Later, Nestle sold the Kathryn Beich fundraising arm. 

In June, Nestle said it's considering “strategic options” that could include the sale of its U.S. confectionery business, including its southwest Bloomington factory. 

The west-side factory was destroyed in a 2005 fire, shortly before a planned demolition. Afterward, great-grandson David Beich wrote a letter in tribute:

“The building refused to die by the wrecking ball, instead waiting for the right moment in time to display her glory and die a dignified death,” he said.

But melt-in-your-mouth memories live on.

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