Edward Marc Brands, owners of the South Side Milk Shake Factory, will open a new 50,000 square-foot Lawrenceville chocolate factory in January 2015. Supplementing production at the company’s Trafford factory, the move will allow the fourth-generation chocolatiers to meet national retail demand for Snappers, their sweet-and-salty snack product.

Located at 55 38th Street on the river side of Lawrenceville, the new facility will be a sort of homecoming for the business, says CEO Chris Edwards, whose great-great-grandparents settled in Pittsburgh in 1914. “They sold candied fruit on a street corner until they saved enough money to buy the shop on 52nd and Butler Streets,” he says, a location that stood the test of time but fell to a fire in the late 80’s.“To be coming back to Lawrenceville in a new facility is kind of coming back from the ashes. We’re coming back stronger.”

In the last few years Edwards, along with his brother and sister, have guided the business toward making gourmet box chocolate readily available to the world, says Edwards. “We’re chocolatiers. We love making good quality chocolates, and we were trying to create that snack item we knew people wanted: salty and sweet.”

After buying every available pretzel snack at a local Shop ‘n Save, the trio retreated to their grandfather’s candy kitchen to experiment, and produced the forerunner of today’s Snappers. The snack has found favor with many of the nation’s largest retailers: Costco, Target and Kroger represent a fraction of their client list. “We need a facility to be able to meet the demand for this product,” says Edwards. Two years ago Edward Marc Brands produced 240,000 pounds of chocolate annually.

They will deliver that same amount to retailers in the next two weeks. Edwards says they expect the new facility to be able to initially produce 600,000 bags of Snappers per month, though Edwards emphasizes that is just the beginning of the site’s capability.

The company will invest $2.5 million in the expansion and have been granted state support in the form of $100,000 Pennsylvania First Program Grant, meant to enable investment and job creation, a $500,000 loan from the Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund, and $51,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits. The company has committed to creating 51 new jobs, which will be posted on the company’s website in the coming months.

Margaret J Krauss

Margaret J. Krauss is a writer, radio producer, and researcher. If not biking Pittsburgh's streets or swimming its rivers, she is likely geeking out about a really good story.