KC Made: KC-based Russell Stover celebrating 100 years of chocolate

Here’s the story about how one couple started a company out of their kitchen and ended up taking the gourmet chocolate industry by storm.

KC_Russell Stover HQ.jpg

Big decisions happen here at HQ — like caramel, or nougat?

Photo by KCtoday

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Russell Stover, famous for its copper foil design + assorted boxes, is turning 100 years old this year. Within this century of confectionery creativity lies the story of how these gourmet chocolates are rooted in the Midwest — and more recently, Kansas City.

Sugar, you are my candy girl

Clara Stover is credited for starting the company out of her Denver bungalow. Indeed, the business was originally named Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies when it started in 1923. However, both she and her husband, Russell (hint hint), had a hand in the candy bowl.

Russell worked for multiple Midwest candy companies before striking it big in Omaha with Eskimo Pies. With a year of collegiate chemistry under his belt, the budding food scientist and business man was ready to start his own company.

Meanwhile, Clara was cooking up her own experimental concoctions at home — it seems the whole family had a sweet tooth.

Growth and innovation

When the company opened, it employed seven people. A year later, there were five stores across Denver, Kansas City, Lincoln, Omaha, and St. Louis. To keep up with demand, Russell and Clara opened their first factory in 1928 in Kansas City. They moved their headquarters there in 1932.

Photo of Russell Stover's KC location in 1930

Russell Stover (then called “Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow”) circa 1930 — at 1120 E. Linwood Blvd.

Photo via Kansas City Public Library

Russell also patented special dipping tables + a manufacturing process called “Zephyr Freeze.” The company’s growth and innovation resulted in national prestige.

100-year celebration

With a reported annual revenue of $500+ million and a 60% share of all boxed chocolate sales in the US, this big company is planning to celebrate its centennial in a big way.

  • World record: See the the world’s largest box of chocolates (parts were auctioned to raise money for Feed the Children) built in the Kauffman Center.
  • Selfie Spot: Corporate headquarters — at 4900 Oak St., KCMO — will set up a hometown hub for pictures and giveaways (stay tuned).
  • Tour: Representatives are hitting the road this fall with pieces from the record-breaking box.
Photo of workers building the worlds largest box of chocolates

Each piece weighed 10-45 pounds.

Photo by KCtoday

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