February 6, 2007

Peter Paul

And the man behind the brand is...
Peter Paul Halajian

Peter Paul Halajian was a familiar figure to early commuters up and down the Naugatuck Valley in turn-of-the-century Connecticut. Every day he would walk up and down the train platforms hawking his homemade candy from a basket.

Halajian came to Naugatuck from Armenia in 1870 and began work in a local rubber company. He was paid piece work so when he reached his quota, usually in the early afternoon, he would rush off to join his two daughters in operating a fruit stand. By the early 1900s Halajian had two small shops, one in Naugatuck and another down the road in Torrington.

He advertised his wares on crude handbills distributed through the Valley:
"Peter Paul has very good food
You don't throw any down the chute
His delicious ice cream your dreams will haunt
The more you eat it, the more you want
Ice cream soda the year round
No better soda was ever found
His homemade candy will make you fat
To Peter Paul, take off your hat."

In 1919 Peter Paul and five Armenian friends put up $1000 each to found their own candy business, Peter Paul Inc. The partners and their wives all dipped chocolate by hand in a 50' x 60' loft on Webster Street in New Haven. They worked at night because there was no refrigeration and the owners wanted to sell their candy when it was as fresh as possible the following day.

The first candy was a KONABAR, a gooey concoction of nuts, fruit, coconut and chocolate. After about a year of experimentation Peter Paul introduced their trademark candy in 1922 - the Mounds bar. A Mounds was a drift of snowy white coconut inside dark bittersweet chocolate. The Mounds bar was a number-one seller for many years, sustaining Peter Paul profits.

Arthritic and blind, Peter Paul Halajian died in 1927. Almond Joy was developed after World War II, giving Peter Paul Inc. the most powerful one-two sales punch in candydom allowing the company itself to remain one of the very few nationally know candy-only firms in the United States.

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