BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Each week, we highlight a City Shaper - someone making a positive impact on Western New York. Landies Candies is a Buffalo business getting national attention on QVC. The chocolate company is also busy supporting several charities.
This week, 2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik profiles Landies’ CEO.
"Do you like chocolate? Do you eat a lot of chocolate?" asked Dudzik.
"I do. Probably every day. My favorite is the dark chocolate with the almonds in it," says CEO Larry Szrama.
Szrama has more than thirty years of experience as a chocolatier.
"My mom and dad, in the mid-80s, owned Bells Supermarkets, if you remember Bells back in the day. And we started making chocolate in our supermarket in 1983," says Szrama.
Two years later, they sold their supermarkets and incorporated Landies Candies. Szrama's family landed some big accounts - first Tops, then Wegmans.
The company moved into the Tri-Main Center 21 years ago, and now takes up 30-thousand square feet.
"Everything behind this wall is Willy Wonka little factory back there, so we have about ten-thousand square feet of production facility. Four different productions lines. Then we have a packing area, and then a warehouse area," says Szrama.
Landies now makes 250 to 300 different types of candies. Recently, the company found huge success on QVC. The chocolate-stuffed pretzels are one of the top selling items on the network during Christmas in July, second only to Disney's Frozen line.
"This is our fourth season now. We've sold over 14-million of our chocolate-stuffed pretzels and people are just loving it," says Szrama.
"How do you keep up with that amount of production?" asked Dudzik.
"Well, we just started this week, we're running two shifts. We can make about 40-thousand pretzels in a day. And we run that five days a week, and we just keep them pretzels coming," he says.
The staff has grown to meet the demand. During peak season, there are forty to fifty employees. Many are immigrants.
"Right now, we have eight different countries in the factory, which is very cool. Yeah, people are very happy to get a job, very thankful, and hardworking. They want to please us, and many of them do really, really excellent," says Szrama.
Giving back to the community is also important to Landies Candies. Money raised through the sales of edible cake numbers pays for birthday parties for underprivileged children, each chocolate bar sold benefits the Food Bank of WNY, and the popular pretzels help worldwide disaster relief organizations.
And when it comes to doing business in Buffalo, Szrama says he's noticed a big change in how people view Western New York.
"Vendors or customers from outside of the area who always just used to talk about the snow, that's all you would hear about, oh Buffalo, the snow, all you get is snow, now you're hearing a little bit of a different talk. Beautiful waterfront now, and beautiful this and that, so it's good to see a little bit of a change and the national retailers and restaurants that are popping up, which is kind of cool," he says.
Szrama's parents are still very much involved with day-to-day operations. His dad is the CFO and his mom runs the store.
If you'd like to nominate a City Shaper, email Kelly.