Candy Factory Celebrates Sweet Victory
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The makers of Clark Bars are celebrating a sweet victory four months after the company wound up in more than just a chocolatey coated peanut butter crunch.
Employees were back at their suburban factory making the candy bar again Thursday after financial wrangling closed the plant and abandoned its workers _ who once lay down in front of trucks to save their jobs.
``I’m glad that stuff’s all over with,″ said Alvin Mitchell, 49, who has worked for Clark for 28 years. ``I think most people now will be happy when they can retire. Nobody wants to go through that same thing again.″
The candy bar is one of the nation’s oldest machine-made treats. It is popular in the Midwest and parts of the East and especially so in Pittsburgh, where Irish immigrant David Lytle Clark created it in 1886.
Most of the plant’s 180 workers were laid off in mid-February when a creditor accused the owner of D.L. Clark Co. of fraud and Clark’s parent company filed for bankruptcy protection.
When former owner Leaf Inc. of suburban Chicago foreclosed on a $3 million loan to the owner it sent in tractor-trailers to seize candy and machinery, but picketing workers blocked the trucks and negotiated a deal to leave the machinery while the union looked for a new owner.
While the factory was closed, Leaf made Clark bars at another candy plant in Centralia, Ill., using a slightly different recipe.
Then on June 2, a new owner bought Clark in a bankruptcy sale.
``It was kind of a David-and-Goliath thing,″ said Patti Gardone, 43, who has made Clark Bars all her working life. ``We beat a large corporation, and there’s not a lot of people who have done that.″
Mitchell said it will take him weeks to catch up financially after three months without work, especially since the union accepted an 18 percent cut in pay and benefits.
The new Clark, Clark Bar America Inc., will be different, said Gary T. Evans, vice president in charge of marketing.
Under the old Clark, ``Our No. 1 emphasis was cash flow, selling Clark Bars as quickly as possible,″ Evans said. ``I think now we’ll do the right things.″