It appears as if the saga of the New England Confectionery Company, the maker of sweet favorites like Sweethearts candy hearts, Necco wafers, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Slap Stix, Candy Buttons, Clark Bars, and Mary Janes, may be officially over. The company abruptly shut down yesterday, telling the 230 workers at the plant located in Revere, Massachusetts, that they could pick up their final paychecks on Friday.
We told you about the #SaveNecco campaign back in April; a group of the candy's fans brought attention to the company's effort to find a buyer that would keep the sweethearts candy lines working. The campaign worked, sort of.
In late May, the candy company was sold at a bankruptcy auction to Spangler Candy, who makes DumDums suckers and Circus Peanuts. But before the ink was dry on that deal, Spangler backed out. They claimed Necco didn't meet certain closing conditions and they asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court trustee overseeing the auction process for a discount on the final sale price.
When that request was not granted, the trustee opened a second round of bids. Only one company, Round Hill Investments LLC, submitted a bid, and so in early June, the New England Confectionery Company became the Sweetheart Candy Co., owned by Round Hill, which is chaired by C. Dean Metropoulos.
Metropoulos is the billionaire who bought Hostess in 2013 when the maker of Twinkies was also in bankruptcy.
Everyone seemed pleased by Round Hill's purchase of Necco. In the news release announcing the purchase, Necco's CEO Mike McGee said, "We are thrilled to be partnering with the Metropoulos team given their impressive track record working with great consumer brands and a strong commitment to supporting customers with outstanding products and service levels going forward."
However, it looks like something went wrong in the less than two months since the purchase. The bankruptcy trustee filed suit against Round Hill for refusing to make the final $1 million payment in the purchase deal; Round Hill claims that they were excused from making the final payment because they were obligated to spend unexpected money fixing FDA violations at the Necco plant.
And so on Tuesday, July 24, Round Hill announced that they had sold the Necco brand to a new owner, an unnamed candy manufacturer, and were closing the plant effective immediately. The Boston Globe reported that workers were told the news at a meeting in the factory's cafeteria Tuesday afternoon.
One employee told the paper, "There was a statement they read off about severance pay and 'thank you for your service' and where you can pick up all your personal belongings. We were told don't show up tomorrow [Wednesday]."
"Round Hill Investments was very excited to acquire Necco's historic brands and to be part of their national resurgence," the company said in a statement. "After careful engagement and consideration, however, the firm decided to sell the brands to another national confection manufacturer and today announced the closure of the operations in Revere, Massachusetts."
The closure came as a complete shock to the company's employees, who were given no advance warning that the company was being sold again or the factory closed. The lease on the Revere plant location was extended through the end of November as part of the bankruptcy proceedings, so even if the company ended up moving, workers expected to be in place through the fall.
It's a sad ending to the oldest continuously operating candy maker in the U.S. The bottom line is if you're a fan of sweethearts candy conversation hearts, Necco wafers, or any of the other candy made by the New England Confectionery Company, you should stock up now (that is, if you can find it anywhere).