Blommer to Close Chicago Chocolate Factory After 85 Years

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After more than eight decades, Blommer Chocolate is closing its factory at the end of May. The factory opened in 1939, and while chocolate connoisseurs can’t find Blommer by its name on store shelves, the factory makes confections for some of the country’s more popular brands. But for most Chicagoans, especially ones close to downtown Chicago and neighborhoods like West Loop, River West, and West Town near the factory, locals remained enamored due to the random aroma of chocolate wafting from the building into surrounding neighborhoods.

The Sun-Times reports the closure at 600 W. Kinzie Street will cost 250 jobs. The headquarters will remain in Chicago at the Merchandise Mart. In a news release, Blommer mentions a shift in operations. They’re opening a research and development center this fall at the Mart. A Blommer rep didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Chocolate making can be a thorny subject, where foreign farmers are often exploited. Despite its place as a civic institution, Blommer hasn’t escaped controversy over the years. In 2005, the EPA cited the factory for alleged clean-air violations due to smells coming out of the building. The federal agency responded to an anonymous complaint and argued the cocoa dust wafting from the factory was pollution.

One of the city’s best Korean restaurants, Perilla Korean American Fare, stands across the street from the factory. Co-owner Thomas Oh tells Eater that he often uses Blommer as a landmark. Customers might not be familiar with the intersection of Kinzie and Milwaukee, but they instantly know the factory. Before Blommer closed its store in 2020, staff would often stop in to purchase chocolate-covered almonds and other treats.

Oh did recall a quirky episode immediately after Perilla opened in 2019 when a customer complained on Yelp about the chocolate smell on their way to the restaurant: “How does that have to do with anything we are providing you?” Oh says with a laugh.

There’s no word on what will happen to the 5.5-acre site. Oh says he hopes for a new development that will bring more potential customers to the area.

Chicago, where a baseball stadium is named after the founder of a chewing gum company, is often called “the candy capital of the universe.” The National Confectioners Association was founded 140 years ago in Chicago. But that title might be in jeopardy after Blommer’s shutter. As is the custom, Chicagoans often will add an extra “s” at the end of the company’s name. It’s “Blommers” in the same tradition of “The Jewels” and “Soldiers Field.”

A worker cutting candy bars in a factory.
A worker at Mars’ Goose Island campus hard at work.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Earlier this year, Mars opened a new global research and development hub on its Goose Island campus. This is where experimental M&M’s flavors and Snickers test bars are made. The $42 million wing will allow for more experiments, and hopefully more variety on store shelves.

Blommer says it’s investing $100 million in other production facilities in Pennsylvania, California; and Ontario, Canada. Fuji Oil Holdings, a Japanese company, bought Blommers in 2018 and they closed down the factory store in 2020. They’re the No. 1 cocoa processor in North America, according to Crain’s, which broke the story.

The Merchandise Mart

222 Merchandise Mart Plz, Chicago, IL 60654 (800) 677-6278 Visit Website

Perilla Korean American Fare

401 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60654 (312) 243-3344 Visit Website

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