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Arnold's Candies.

Peru, Indiana, is famous for two lasting contributions to American history: Cole Porter and the circus.

Chocolate lovers will name yet a third.

Arnold's Candies, founded during Porter's youth and originally located next door to a drugstore owned by the lyricist's father, is known to sweet tooths worldwide as the maker of the Gold Brick candy bar. Cole Porter fans, however, prefer Arnold's So-Good fudge, which gained notoriety as the songwriter's favorite confection during the recent 100th anniversary of the Peru native's birth.

According to Arnold's owners Bob and Jane Haskett, Porter's secretary Madelyn Smith had nine pounds of the carmelized candy shipped each month to one of three locations. "He had places in California, Connecticut and at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City," recalls Bob Haskett. "Even if he wasn't there at the time, the fudge was sent. It was a standing order, paid once a year."

The tradition began with Arnold family, who founded the company and were friends of Porter's during his early years in Peru. And it continued when the Hasketts took over the candy-making operation in 1961.

Porter, who reportedly had a fondness for lavish parties, would make a grand affair of serving the handmade treat. Carried out in slabs on silver platters, he would cut it himself and present it to guests. "It was part of the meal," says Bob Haskett. "He really bragged on the fudge."

Arnold's Candies' relationship with Porter lasted until his death, Haskett says. "A telegram came that said 'Cole Porter has passed away. Stop fudge shipments.' That's how we learned he had died," he recalls.

In the kitchen, behind their retail candy store, is where the Hasketts proudly continue the tradition begun by the Arnold family. Bob, like Lewis Arnold, is the mixer, carefully melting the chocolate and adding the necessary ingredients. Jane, following in Gretchen Arnold's steps, is the dipper. Her responsibility is cooling the various mixtures and shaping them by hand into the finished product. "It's a lost art," they agree.

The Hasketts' devotion to their craft has discouraged the couple from expanding the operation into larger markets. In fact, you can't find the candies in retail stores. It's available only to walk-in customers or through the mail. While automation would increase production and profits, they fear it would diminish the art.

Cole Porter would probably agree.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Nelson, Eric
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Words:390
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