As it seeks to continue its rapid growth, a Dubuque-based candy company soon will take up residence in a former house of pancakes.
Betty Jane Candies purchased the former home of IHOP, 1785 John F. Kennedy Road, and aims to open in that structure in the fall, according to Betty Jane President Drew Siegert.
He said the company identified the need for additional space in the weeks leading up to Christmas last year and since has explored multiple options within Dubuque. The former home of IHOP, which closed in January, emerged as the ideal location for the expanding candy company.
“It really came down to location and space,” Siegert said. “We have needed more room as we continue to grow, and that is a really visible location and a real high-traffic area.”
Siegert said it will serve as the new “flagship retail location” for Betty Jane Candies and that it will offer about three times the retail space currently utilized at 3049 Asbury Road.
“We will have a lot more space to display our candies, and we’ll be able to offer things like ice cream year-round instead of it just being a seasonal item,” he said. “We’ll also have a lot more parking, which will make things easier on customers, especially during the holiday season.”
Siegert emphasized that the Asbury Road location, which is now utilized as both a retail and production site, will continue to sell candy until Betty Jane is ready to move into the new space.
Once that move takes place, crews will conduct minor renovations at the Asbury Road site to transform the entire building into a production facility, significantly increasing the company’s capacity in the process. The work — largely taking down some walls — will create enough room for a second chocolate coating line.
Siegert also noted that the company’s retail location in Warren Plaza, 3500 Dodge St., will close when the lease expires at the end of the month. However, he emphasized that all employees from that location will be retained.
“We actually will be adding quite a few employees in the months ahead,” he said. “As of July 1, we had 36 employees. By Christmas, we are going to be up to 45 employees.”
Dan McDonald, director of existing business for Greater Dubuque Development Corp., believes there are multiple reasons for the community to be excited about Betty Jane’s announcement.
“It is great to see a local company grow,” he said. “They are also doing the community a great service by picking up a vacant building and turning it into something special.”
Betty Jane Candies was founded in 1938. Its reputation outside of Dubuque has ballooned in recent years, helping fuel sales and reinforcing the need for additional space.
In 2013, People Magazine named Betty Jane’s trademark Gremlins as the top culinary gift in Iowa. In subsequent years, the company’s products were handed out to attendees at the Grammy Awards and included in gift bags for nominees at the Academy Awards.
McDonald is among the local economic development officials who have looked on proudly as the Dubuque company’s profile has grown.
“We’re very proud to have a company like them in Dubuque, and we’re thrilled that people around the world know of the brand,” he said.
Siegert said he hopes that crews can start renovations on the old IHOP building as soon as possible, but noted there could be some delays in lining up contractors for the project. With that in mind, he acknowledged it could be “late fall” before the new retail space is up and running.
In addition to extra display space, he noted that the JFK location will boast extra indoor seating for customers.