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Factory where Clark Bars were made closes as company is sold -- again

July 27, 2018 GMT

How sweet it was.

The investment company that bought the makers of the Clark Bar out of bankruptcy this spring has abruptly closed the Massachusetts plant where the locally popular candy bars were made.

Round Hill Investments LLC said Tuesday it is selling the New England Confectionery Co., or Necco, to another manufacturer and closing down its Revere, Mass., plant. It didn’t identify the buyer or say if candy production would resume.

Round Hill bought Necco for $17.3 million at a bankruptcy auction in May.

It’s sad news for fans and sellers of the Clark Bar and other sweet treats that were made by Necco, which dubs itself as the nation’s oldest continually operating candy company. It traces its candy-making origins to 1847 -- a longevity streak that will now presumably end at 171 years.

“The demand (for Clark Bars) is so great, we give them to those that ask first,” said David Luehm, whose namesake candy company has been a staple in North Huntingdon for 49 years and was in McKeesport for six decades before that. “I know there’s still plenty of interest in the Clark Bar.”

The 67-year-old David Luehm, the fourth generation of his family to own the business, said Clark Bars and Necco Wafers have always been sold at Luehm’s.

Necco had owned the Clark Bar brand since 1999. The acquisition ended local production of the candy bar. It had been made in O’Hara before that.

The Clark Bar was originated here by David Clark, whose eponymous D.L. Clark Co. was established in 1886 in Allegheny City -- now Pittsburgh’s North Side -- where the company was headquartered on Martindale Street. The historic D.L. Clark Building was home to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review from the late 1990s until 2017.

The crunchy chocolate and peanut butter bar is a favorite at Luehm’s store, along with other Necco brands, but the market for those treats is slowly dying off, Luehm said.

“Therein lies the problem with the Necco Co.,” he said. “The problem I see today is young people don’t like anything they make.”

The company’s other treats -- peanut butter-flavored Mary Jane chews and the nutty caramel Squirrel Nut Zipper are only liked by the generation that isn’t so young anymore, Luehm said.

“They don’t make anything sour and gummy, which young people like today,” Luehm said.

It’s made for a slow but steady decline in sales, despite increased demand caused by scarcity, he said.

Luehm’s has 24 boxes of Clark Bars on hand, along with some Necco Wafers, Luehm said. Before the company’s last sale, news of the bankruptcy increased demand for treats and Luehm presumed that would buoy the company as it moved forward.

Because of the demand, he expects production of the Clark Bar to resume at some point.

“I don’t think it’s going away forever,” Luehm said.