The phrase “Sweet Home Chicago” will soon have new meaning for Ferrara Candy Co.
The 111-year-old candy company is moving its headquarters from the city’s western suburbs to the long-vacant Old Main Post Office building on Van Buren Street this year. Ferrara will occupy 77,000 sq. ft. in the nine-story building, located just west of the Chicago River.
Lauded by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the move allows Ferrara to return to roots. Salvatore Ferrara founded the company in 1908, selling candy-coated almonds from his bakery in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood.
Sarah Kittel, Ferrara’s head of corporate communications, said the Old Post Office, vacant since 1997, serves as an ideal “blank canvas” for recreating Ferrara’s headquarters.
“It allows us to really plan and design a more fluid and creative environment that we believe will stand for and represent the brand, the culture and community we continue to cultivate at Ferrara,” she said.
Owner 601W Cos., a New York City-based real estate company, is spending more than $800 million to renovate the space, The Chicago Tribune reported. Planned amenities include a food court, fitness center and rooftop park — all of which are drawing excitement from Ferrara’s employees, Kittel said.
“The Old Post Office itself is something of an institution,” she said. “It is quite literally, as many people say, the gateway to Chicago. It’s close to thoroughfares and transportation hubs. Over time, in working with the developers and understanding what’s in store for this space, we know that it will house numerous amenities that our employees can take advantage of.”
Ferrara began exploring the possibility of moving from Oak Brook Terrace in early 2018, announcing its intent to move in June. The company, alongside Chicago leadership, announced selection of the Old Post Office in December.
Before deciding on the Old Post Office, Kittel noted, Ferrara undertook a variety of methods to solicit employee input, including one-on-one discussions, cultural workshops, immersive observations and surveys.
“We wanted to make sure that we cast a wide net to gather as much feedback as we could to help guide the design of this space,” she said. “Overwhelmingly, what we heard is that they want the space to be really fun and dynamic. After all, we are a candy company.”
Access to high-quality talent in all fields was another of Ferrara’s main concerns. And Chicago, according to Emanuel, has led the country in corporate relocations for the last five years, also leading the country in food industry job growth.
“In order to be the No. 1 player in non-chocolate confection, we need world-class talent. Chicago offers some of the best talent pools in the country,” Kittel said.
While the design process has been underway, construction is set for early 2019. Ferrara will move 400 employees into the space by late summer. Facilities in Maywood, Bolingbrook, Franklin Park and Bloomington will not be affected.
And, as it turns out, Ferrara will be in good company. Walgreen’s also announced last year it would move 1,800 employees into the Old Post Office in 2019, leasing 200,000 sq. ft. there. Walgreens will maintain its headquarters in Deerfield, Ill.
Ferrero Group acquired Ferrara Candy Co. in October 2017, not long before acquiring Nestlé’s U.S. confectionery business. Support from the international company, combined with the complementary nature of the former Nestlé brands, allows Ferrara and Ferrero to grow hand-in-hand, Kittel said.
“We’re very fortunate to be backed by Ferrero and its robust ecosystem of capabilities,” she said. “We certainly are the beneficiaries of an ownership structure that is uncompromisingly dedicated to quality and innovation. We know that together we are looking to build powerful, resonant brands through strong, long-term growth orientation.”