Reporting Jason DeRusha
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A St. Paul icon is opening its doors to the public for the first time in more than 50 years.
The Pearson’s Candy Company’s factory along West 7th Street has been virtually unchanged since it started production there in 1959.
“There’s a little bit of magic built into these products because they’ve been passed from generation to generation within families,” Pearson’s CEO and President Michael Keller said.
Nut Goodie and Salted Nut Rolls have been fresh off the assembly line for more than a century. Starting Monday, there’s something new to enjoy in honor of Nut Goodie’s 100th birthday — special tours.
“We know we’re satisfying some pretty serious pent-up demand. People want to get inside this plant,” said Keller.
This rare peek inside Pearson’s plant is a familiar plot line, made famous in Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” later made into the film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
“There was certainly inspiration from the movie,” Keller explained. “The whole idea of touring a candy factory felt like a good fit for Pearson’s.”
Local theater and production specialists Brush Strokes and Star Exhibits are constructing a vibrant and elaborate “House of Pearson” storefront at the main door. The hope is the exterior of the plant will spike some curiosity and excitement for the families coming through.
Once inside, visitors will get an exclusive look at how the iconic treats are made from start to finish. They’ll get to see where the primary ingredients are made in the kitchen, then follow the process to where the candy is made. Pearson’s promises fun tasting stations along the way with trivia about the iconic treats sprinkled in.
Keller says watching the magic of candy making through the eyes of a child is priceless.
“To see their smiles, or to see their jaws drop when they see candy being made is kind of what it’s all about,” he said. “There are some things on the production line that still tickle me. Like no matter how many times you’ve seen it, you’re like ‘Wow, that’s really how a Salted Nut Roll is made!’”
The grand finale of the tour concludes with 100 pounds of Nut Goodie — 914 candy bars for the families to take home with them.
There were two ways to win the tours: matching a special code in candy wrappers or by bidding on an auction item from one of three partnering non-profits.
Keller says if these tours go well, they’ll consider doing more public tours in the future.