Hard to walk the streets of Grand Junction, Colo., and encounter someone who’s not familiar with the Enstrom name — be it for the famous almond toffee or for the family owners, Jamee, Doug, Doug Jr. and Jim. There’s more to that than just longevity, although the family’s been in Grand Junction since 1929, which was when Chet Enstrom went in to business to establish the Jones-Enstrom Ice Cream Co. In 1960, Chet Enstrom sold the ice cream business and established Enstrom Candies with his wife, Vernie.
The family legacy continued in 1966 when Chet’s son, Emil took over the business and then in 1979, which was when Jamee, Chet’s granddaughter, and her husband Doug, took over the reins.
Even the recently installed statue of Chet and Vernie on Seventh and Main streets, a part of the Historic Sculptures Legends project, which celebrates historically significant men and women who shaped the Grand Valley community, doesn’t fully explain why Enstrom and the Simons family are household names.
As Jamee Simons explains, “I’m the keeper of the flame. It’s my passion.” And that flame is intertwined in founder Chet, an entrepreneurial ice cream maker turned candy maker turned philanthropist. Jamee handles all donations by the company, which range from “candy to blood and sweat to cash.”
Thus, every holiday period, the company donates boxes of Enstrom Almond Toffee to local fire stations, police stations and sheriff offices in recognition of those who are first responders night and day, week day and weekend, holiday or not. The company donates candy to the military during the holidays and offers year-round free shipping to soldiers serving overseas.
It’s also greatly involved in the community, be it through supplying candy for school fundraisers, sporting events and social gatherings or providing space for meetings. And then both Jamee and Doug serve on various boards.
As Doug explains, part of the company’s mission statement is to be a “good community-minded employer.” And while he thinks that occasionally “we support the community to a fault,” Doug insists the payback extends beyond just feeling good.
“When we need them, the community gives back,” he says.
Which explains why Chet and Vernie’s statue shows them smiling.