Mars Wrigley closing nearly century-old chocolate plant on Chicago’s West Side
Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune January 25, 2022
Mars Wrigley is closing a nearly century-old chocolate plant on Chicago’s West Side once hailed as the most beautiful candy factory in America.
Built in a Spanish-style architecture in 1928, the sprawling plant in the Galewood neighborhood bordering Oak Park employs about 280 workers and will be phased out over the next two years, the company said in a statement Tuesday.
What becomes of the employees and the unique factory — an intriguing part of Chicago’s rich candy history — remains to be seen.
“The company remains committed to the city of Chicago and intends to partner with the surrounding community on a future vision for the site,” a spokesperson for Mars Wrigley Confectionery said in an email. “As we continuously evaluate our footprint across North America, our Associates were informed of the decision to move the majority of operations to other facilities in the U.S. over the next two years.”
The U.S. headquarters for privately held Mars Wrigley moved to New Jersey in 2017, following Mars’ $23 billion acquisition of Chicago-based Wrigley in 2008. The Mars Wrigley global headquarters are located on Goose Island in Chicago.
Workers at the closing Chicago plant will be “encouraged to explore the opportunities to apply for open roles across our network, specifically in the Chicago area,” the Mars Wrigley spokesperson said.
Mars Wrigley has an ice cream factory in Burr Ridge, a candy factory in Yorkville and a pet nutrition manufacturing site in downstate Mattoon, among other Illinois locations, the company said.
The plant at 2019 N. Oak Park Ave. produces a variety of “filled bar chocolate” such as 3 Musketeers and Milky Way, the company said. The success of the Milky Way, a malted milk candy bar introduced in 1923, helped build the company and the Chicago factory, with founder Frank Mars moving the company from Minneapolis to Chicago when it opened in 1929.
Built on 16 acres in a residential area, the plant was named the “factory of the month” in a 1953 Chicago Tribune series, which called it “an outstanding bit of architecture … in a beautiful setting of brilliant green bent grass, beds of flowers, shrubs and towering trees.” The factory included tinted walls, red tile roofs and two-story-high curved-top windows.
Inside, fine art adorned the walls and Oriental rugs were “scattered about,” reflecting the company’s mission to create a better workplace and beautify the neighborhood, according to the Tribune article.
The Tribune reported that the candy bar plant was the “largest of its kind in the world,” at least as of 1953.
The property was formerly part of the Westward Ho Golf Club. Mars Wrigley plans to donate the factory site “for the use of the community,” the company said.
Mars moved its corporate headquarters to New Jersey in 1940 and relocated to Virginia in 1984, where the parent company remains.