Macy’s has reached an agreement to sell its Frango chocolates business to Chicago-based Garrett Brands, as the storied retailer continues to trim away at its properties.
Macy’s still plans to sell Frango products in the Frango Café at its State Street store in Chicago, and at more than 350 additional store locations in the U.S., as well as online.
Garrett will not sell Frango products at its Garrett’s Popcorn Shops, but the company said it plans to further develop and expand distribution for Frango products.
Ask any born-and-bred Chicagoan of a certain, advanced age "What's the city's favorite snack?" and at least nine out of 10 will say it's Garrett's popcorn. Ask any of the same "What's the city's favorite candy?" and all 10 are likely to say it's Frangos, with apologies to Fannie May and Blommer — the latter's city plant being responsible for the sweet, chocolatey scent you might smell as you're walking around downtown on a spring afternoon. (Blommer chocolates also are the basis of Frango mints.)
Garrett’s started in Chicago in 1949, and has remained Chicago-based since then. The Frango brand, famous for its mints, started in Seattle, then owned and operated for several decades by the Marshall Field’s department store chain in Chicago, where the chocolates also were produced. For a brand that was not born in Chicago, Frango has endeared itself to the city something fierce, to the point that when Minneapolis-based Dayton Hudson (which acquired Marshall Field's in 1990) outsourced Frango production to a Pennsylvania company in 1999, it was front page news locally, and a few loyal Marshall Field's shoppers swore they would boycott the department store. Again, after Macy’s parent Federated Department Stores bought Dayton Hudson in 2005 and converted all Field’s stores to Macy's, a number of shoppers immediately bought up numerous boxes of Frangos in the belief that Macy's would kill the whole operation the way it made the much-loved Marshall Field's name disappear.
Macy's did earn points for bringing some Frango production back to the area through a partnership with a local producer, but Chicagoans have always been nervous about what would happen next. I firmly believe there are basements full of unopened Frango boxes all around the city, being passed from one generation to the next along with the advice to smartly ration them — just in case.
Garrett is aware of all this, and probably was ready to move when Macy's was ready to sell. Chicago should be very happy about this deal. Although, many people probably are going to assume they can now buy Frangos at Garrett's Popcorn, and it doesn't sound like that's going to happen. That's a curious decision by the buyer, though a number of their current locations are somewhat small and set up more for quick line-flow to sell fresh product, rather than for long-term storage and display.
For Macy's, this is probably a deal that had to happen. Frango is a good example of the kind of product that fit the "niche generalist" department store approach that some say Macy's abandoned, to its detriment. The sale price was not disclosed, but as Macy's continues to close stores, it may need to part with more properties to help stay afloat.
But, anyway, thank the stars Frango has been saved again... I'll be in the basement eating mints if you need me.