Best of the West.
A Denver tradition continues
* One thing leads to another. You think up a little recipe for Honey KoKos, and before you know it, 375,000 pounds of ribbons and canes and whorls are being formed in your candy factory every year. In the process, you've embodied the old-fashioned American dream of passing your homegrown business to the next generation, and the next. You've purveyed sweet moments through the hard times of the Great Depression and World War II. And, as the largest producer of entirely handmade hard candy in the country, you've proved that a high-quality, handcrafted product can still be a good business proposition.
Carl T. Hammond Sr., the KoKos man, founded Hammond's Candies in Denver in 1920. He made the candy, sold it, and kept the books. His son, Carl T. (Tom) Hammond Jr., carried on. In the third generation, Tom's son-in-law Emery Dorsey IV stepped in as master candy maker.
The company has new owners now, and the factory a new location (its third). But a pair of hands still tints blocks of the warm confections, lays out the color patterns, and wraps them around plain white cores to create 50-pound "snakes." More hands pull each snake to the diameter of a candy cane, snip canes off the end--450 per batch--and quickly crook them before they cool. On a tour you can see the process and sample the ever popular product.
Although Hammond's Candies is no longer a family business, many families have made candy making here their business. Mothers and sons, fathers, daughters, and cousins stir, feed strips through the hand-cranked ribbon machine, and pack peppermint pillows together.
Hammond's candy has lost nothing of Carl Sr.'s vision. Cinnamon red shines as glossily as ever; clove-flavored green still glows like an emerald. Particularly at this time of year, when the bold stripes of the canes and the mesmerizing curves of the ribbon remind us of jolly holiday traditions and the goodness of things made by hand, it's not a bad business to be in.
Hammond's Candies are sold throughout the United States; retailers include Harry and David, Restoration Hardware, and Williams-Sonoma. You can also order from the company: (888) 226-3999. Tours every half-hour 9-2:30, Mon-Fri; free. 4969 Colorado Blvd., Denver.