When Long Grove Confectionery Co. announced early last year it would close its retail store on Robert Parker Coffin Road — where the business had been for more than 40 years — the village of Long Grove, Ill., wasn’t exactly pleased.
“A lot of people in town felt like we were gone. It made it hard for a lot of people,” said Craig Leva, president and owner of Long Grove Confectionery and its sister company, Chicago-based Arway Confections.
But there was nothing to fear. Long Grove Confectionery didn’t close for good — it moved to a 5,000-sq.-ft. property on Old McHenry Road that allowed the company to cement its connection to the village and set a strong foundation for the future.
In January 2017, Long Grove Confectionery’s lease was coming to close, putting the company at a crossroads, Leva said. The company could’ve stayed in and spruced up the original basement-level space that had experienced flooding in the past, or it could buy its own place, giving some permanency to the business.
The thought of putting money into a rented space wasn’t appealing, Leva said, so Long Grove invested $1 million in buying and rehabbing the Old McHenry Road location.
“We have a new house, and we want our house to be comfortable, to look good and to feel good. It doesn’t hurt as much to make an investment in your own house,” Leva said.
The new space doesn’t just house delicious chocolates, caramels and other sweets produced under the Long Grove Confectionery brand at Arway’s 85,000-sq.-ft. facility in Buffalo Grove. There’s room enough for the Long Grove Apple Haus, inspired by the German-style bakery that closed before Leva bought Long Grove Confectionery in 2011.
Given the village’s history with apples — Long Grove hosts Apple Fest for thousands of visitors each fall — Leva and his company chose to revive it. After retrofitting a former office space in the complex with drains, venting, sinks, fryers and other tools, the kitchen became fully operational earlier this year.
“It’s almost like a religious experience when you’re out here with all sorts of people on a beautiful fall day and the leaves are changing and the colors are beautiful,” Leva said of Apple Fest. “There’s just a lot of love for our products. It has a lot of feel-good character to the business.”
The Long Grove Confectionery complex also features The Long Grove Coffee Co., which serves specialty coffee drinks, tea and hot chocolate. Leva said the village’s original coffee shop was set to close, and not wanting to lose the vibe an independent coffee shop offers, Long Grove decided to incorporate one into its retail concept. The coffee shop has been open since November.
And at the front of the Long Grove complex — facing Old McHenry Road — is additional space the company rents to the Within Reach gift shop. Open since October, Within Reach offers home decor, apparel and other gifts.
Leva said each piece is part of a larger retail puzzle that will make visitors want to return again and again.
“The whole thing was built around trying to create a destination retail environment, to bring back what Long Grove was once famous for,” Leva said.
With all entities operational and the staffing levels finalized, Long Grove Confectionery marked its grand opening with an April 20 celebration featuring food, music and 200 of the company’s closest friends. Fortunately, the celebration fell on the most pleasant spring day the year had brought up until that point.
From a rocking chair in front of the Long Grove Confectionery store, Leva expressed gratitude for the support he's received within the confectionery industry and — more importantly — the hard work and dedication of his employees.
“It’s a reminder that we have a really good reputation with our customer base and our suppliers who want to celebrate with us,” Leva said. “The friends that we have here in town and the people that we worked with to get this done are really excited about it. Everybody wants to join in on the fun.”
While the retail store represents roughly 2 percent of Long Grove and Arway’s overall business, it fulfills another significant role, Leva said.
“This is the icing on the cake. This is the fun factor,” Leva said. “It’s a house, it’s our personality. It’s where we can hang out as company. Do we want it to be profitable? We do, but I don’t think it’s ever going to move our needle in respect to what we do company wide, but it sure is an important part of our story.”
And this new chapter is just beginning.