When Lammes Candies started operating in Austin 130 years ago, the Texas State Capitol wasn’t even built.
When the founder of the company, William Wirt Lamme was born, Stephen F. Austin – the so-called father of Texas – was still alive. Generations later, Lamme’s great-great-grandson Bryan Teich co-owns the candy company, along with his sisters.
“We are going to show you a little secret,” he tells me on a tour of the factory.
Make that three little secrets. First: Teich says to use as much chocolate on your products as possible. Chances are, your company could make it to 130 years too.
“The melter here has 1,200 pounds of chocolate. You got the caramel at the bottom so now it’s going through a curtain of chocolate and this little rod spinning around takes off the excess chocolate – if that wasn’t spinning you would have a long tail coming off each piece,” Teich says.
For secret number two, I asked Pam Teich, Bryan’s older sister and another owner in this family business.
“Every day, every day– ask the girls I work with,” she says. “Everyday I’m eating candy. I may not eat anything else, but everyday, I’m eating candy.”
Love your product. That’s the secret. Love it so much that others will love it too.
It took great-grandpa Lamme seven years to come up with a recipe he liked – a recipe so indulgent that during World War II, when sugar was scarce, Lamme’s candies were rationed.
Five generations later, the Teichs wouldn’t change a thing from the original formula.
“I went out there this morning and got a Longhorn before it hit the chocolate,” Pam Teich says.”To me that’s like the best breakfast ever. Ever! I love it!”
Chocolate and love alone don’t make a business successful. Bryan Teich says the third secret is the people.
“We’re fortunate that we have long tenured employees,” Teich says. “John, our production manager, has been here … 36 years.”
No one has worked at Lammes longer than Mildred Walston. She says she started in 1940. She was just out of high school when signed on. Walston worked the night shift so she could attend business school in the mornings. After graduation she got a couple of job offers.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she says.
The company was like a family to her, so she went to the Lammes for their opinion.
“I didn’t go to work one morning, but I went down there anyway,” Walston says. “I went to the back where they were making candy – Mr. Lamme used to make it back then, we used to hand stir the pralines. And I would go back there, then I would go up front, back there and up front. I couldn’t tell him that I was going to quit.”
She finally told him and promptly broke down in tears. Grandpa Lamme gave Walston the company vehicle and told her to go for a ride to clear her mind. She drove to her parents’ house and talked to her parents.
“Daddy says ‘Well, it doesn’t look like you want to quit.’ So, I didn’t quit,” she says.
Eventually, Walston became a shipping expert and found ways to deliver candy as far away as little Greek islands where airmail wouldn’t go. She shipped chocolate to presidents of the United States and even the Queen of England. She never left her job – and that’s how she ended up marrying a customer.
About how many days of work has she missed over the years? “Oh, miss work? No, I don’t like missing work,” Walston says.
It is that dedication that the fifth generation of Lammes say has kept the business in the family. But Lammes is at a crossroads: Pam, Bryan and their sister Lana are not getting younger. The $60 million question is will the sixth generation step up?
“What father wouldn’t want his son or daughter… to follow in his footsteps?” Bryan Teich says. “Reality is I’m ok if that doesn’t happen because that means they are doing what makes them happy.”
There you have it – the secrets to a successful candy company: Use chocolate abundantly, love your product, treat your employees like family. And as a bonus – work in what makes you happy.