By Sandra M. Jones | Tribune staff reporter
13 October 2007
Chicago Tribune

Take a deep breath. The sweet smell of Frangos is expected to waft over Chicago once again.

Macy's Inc. is close to signing an agreement with Cupid Candies, a family-owned candymaker in Chicago, to manufacture one-pound boxes of Frango mints for local Macy's stores, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

Sources cautioned that a deal wasn't finalized as of Friday and that anything could happen. Neither Macy's nor Cupid had any comment Friday.

Still, a deal, which could be announced as early as next week, would make good on a promise Macy's Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren made to Mayor Richard Daley two years ago when the New York retailer decided to shelve the Marshall Field's name.

While Macy's has taken a lot of heat for getting rid of the Field's name, the mayor's voice hasn't been among the critics.

That wasn't the case during the Frango fiasco of 1999. Daley had taken personal offense at Marshall Field's previous owner, Target Corp. (then Dayton Hudson Corp.) when it closed the candy kitchen at the downtown State Street flagship, eliminated 157 jobs and moved production to Pennsylvania, where it remains today.

"It's a step in the right direction for an entity that has been struggling," said Scott M. Curran, program associate for domestic policy at the William J. Clinton Foundation in Little Rock, Ark., and a former Chicagoan. "Certainly [Macy's has] got some goodwill to win back; maybe this is the first step."

If a deal is struck, Cupid and Macy's would have a contract for at least one year with an annual option to renew, according to the sources familiar with the negotiations. It is expected that Cupid will make as many as 200,000 one-pound boxes of Frango mints each year, they said.

Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, the Dunmore, Pa.-based maker of most Frangos, will provide the boxes for Cupid and some other assistance, at least initially, the sources said. It is unclear at this time if the Frangos made at Cupid Candies will have separate labels to indicate they were made in Chicago.

In May, Lundgren said at a press conference after Macy's annual meeting that the retailer was making progress on its plan to return Frango production to Chicago.

Cupid Candies was founded in Chicago in 1936 by Paul Stefanos, a Greek immigrant. The company, run today by his son, John Stefanos, operates a plant at 7637 S. Western Ave. along with namesake candy stores in Oak Lawn and Orland Park. It supplies dozens of independent candy shops in the Chicago area and the Midwest and makes the in-house brands for Crate & Barrel, Figi's Inc. and Golden Farm Candies.

Among its many candies are French mints, a creamy chocolate mint similar to the Frango. Cupid Candies also has ties to the creation of the Dove Bar.

Frangos were invented at the Seattle-based Frederick & Nelson Co. department store in the 1920s. Field's bought the company soon after and made the candy famous.

Just how big is the cult of the Frango?

The October issue of Saveur, a foodie magazine, is devoted to the Chicago food scene. It dedicated a page to Frango mints, saying "their spirit is pure Chicago."

Field's Fans Chicago
Wikipedia: Marshall Field's