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Andes Candies founder, RIP

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From today's Tribune Obit section. (F)

George Andrew Kanelos, 1929-2010: Brought father’s Andes Candies to the masses

April 29, 2010|By Joan Giangrasse Kates, Special to the Tribune

George Andrew Kanelos' father opened his little shop in Chicago around 1920 and named it after himself, "Andy's Candies," stocking the shelves with handmade confections.

People loved the chocolates, but men buying candy for their wives or girlfriends didn't take to another man's moniker on the heart-shaped satin box. So his father changed the name to Andes Candies.

Yes, those Andes Candies.

The ubiquitous Andes Creme de Menthe, a small rectangular mint-green layer sandwiched between two layers of chocolate, hit the market in 1950. While his father created the confection and sold it in his more than 100 Chicago-area Andes Candies stores, it was young George who took the after-dinner mint national — and made the bright green foil-wrapped candies iconic.

"George was a man of enormous vision," said Don Vitullo, a former engineering manager for Andes Candies, who retired in 1991. "He was a smart businessman, who had what it takes to lead a great company."

Taking over as the company's president in 1959, Mr. Kanelos foresaw the increasing demand for the Andes mints. So he shifted the company's focus away from his neighborhood shops to mass production and distribution, moving his small factory from 4450 N. Clark St. to a large state-of-the-art facility in Delavan, Wis., in 1971.

"It went from being a local retail business to becoming a highly automated manufacturing company known all over the country," said his son, Andrew.

Mr. Kanelos, 81, formerly of River Forest and Lake Geneva, Wis., died Sunday, April 25, at a nursing facility near his home in Austin, Texas, from complications related to his battle with Alzheimer's disease.

"He was proud of Andes Candies and all the loyal employees that helped build it," said his wife of 59 years, Alice. "It was, according to one of our old ad slogans, ‘The peak of all candies!' "

Drug stores and supermarkets frequently sold the Andes mints by the register — initially for pennies — and customers would grab a few to round up a purchase to the next dollar. Entertaining housewives bought packages in stores to serve after dinner and hotels left them in rooms for guests.

"It was by far the company's most popular candy," said his son. "There was nothing quite like it at the time."

Mr. Kanelos, who started at the company unloading trucks, sold the business in 1980 to a Swiss candy company that later bought Brach's and made Andes part of that division. In 2000, Brach's sold Andes to Tootsie Roll Industries, which still manufactures the candies in Delavan.

"It's amazing how little his business model has changed since then," said his daughter, Jorjanne Murry, who for several years served as the company's assistant controller. "What he put in place has pretty much stayed the same."

Mr. Kanelos was born in Chicago and graduated from Morgan Park Military Academy. He attended Northwestern University and Coe College before serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.

Other survivors include two daughters, Alexa Skrudland and Elaine; two sisters, Mary Jane Hanson and Alexandra Linn; nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Services were held.

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The only Andes I remember trying were these chocolate mint wafers that would be offered in a candy dish of a restaurant. They were excellent for an after dinner mint. (F) RIP

Yup, those are the ones.

I never knew it was a local Chicago mom&pop that grew into a national brand.

I also never knew that it was originally "Andy's" and then renamed to Andes. I found it interesting, that's why I posted it.

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Yup, those are the ones.

I never knew it was a local Chicago mom&pop that grew into a national brand.

I also never knew that it was originally "Andy's" and then renamed to Andes. I found it interesting, that's why I posted it.

Thanks for sharing. It's been years since I had one and now I think I'll try to find some. :)

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