Velatis In The News - Courier
The Candy Man Can 9-29-2004
By Ryan Bonner
|MAIDENS – When William Haneke’s sister was dying of cancer
and going through extensive chemotherapy sessions, he knew there
was one thing that would make her smile.
“We brightened her up with Velatis caramels,” Haneke said. “She
told me that during those last few days, they really made a
difference to her.”
Luckily for Goochland County residents, they don’t have to
venture far to get their hands on one of the 20 different
varieties of Velatis caramel.
In the two years since Velatis returned to its original home in
the Richmond area, business has doubled and owners William and
Jan Servais are working around the clock to keep up with demand.
Looking around their modest factory-like shop located at 2746-B
Maidens Loop in Maidens, one would never guess that the Servais
family could churn out 500 pounds of caramel a day if needed.
This past March, Velatis won an award for their black cherry
brandy flavored candy at the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo. It
was the first contest the Servais family entered since taking
over Velatis in 1996, and they came away with first prize in the
Best New Product Competition.
“There were 35 - 40 people entered in the contest,” Jan said. “I
didn’t think we had a chance, but we won and that makes you want
to win even more awards.”
The original Velatis store was opened in Richmond by an Italian
immigrant in 1866, but the shop burned to the ground in 1871.
For the next 116 years, the company operated out of a building
at 620 9th Street N.W., in Washington, D.C.
In 1968, Haneke was in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Bragg in
North Carolina, but he was soon deployed to D.C. during the
riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Of course, right next door to where he was located in D.C., was
the Velatis factory. Haneke’s ties to Velatis go back
generations as his grandfather used to ship their caramels to
family members around the country.
Once Woodward & Lothrop, the department store that owned the
Velatis brand at the time, filed for bankruptcy in 1986, Haneke
thought his favorite treat was no more. When the Servais family
bought the company in 1996, they originally operated out of
their Florida home, but soon realized that most of their
customers were from the D.C. – Virginia area.
Haneke, who now lives in Chesterfield County, said there was an
article a couple of years ago in the Richmond Times-Dispatch
about Velatis coming back to Virginia.
“My wife left the newspaper open to that story,” Haneke
recalled. “When I got home, I just yelled with delight.”
Haneke said he now tries to get over to Velatis as often as
“They are just as good as they were back in the old days,” he
And the reason for that is simple if you ask William Servais.
“We won’t sell an inferior product,” he said. “If the texture of
the caramel isn’t just right, we throw it out.”
William said they had to redevelop the Velatis name through
advertising and re-establish the customer base when they first
purchased the company.
“We get people who say ‘I didn’t know you guys still existed’,
Velatis has eight new flavors of caramel available, one of which
is sweet and sour green apple.
“Kids can’t eat caramel apples, but they can eat a piece of
candy,” William said.
The most popular caramels are vanilla sugary and chocolate
sugary, which are much easier on the teeth than the traditional
chewy kind, according to William.
Velatis products are made with all natural ingredients and have
attracted quite a few famous samplers in the past, including
Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Wilson, Eisenhower and their
William said that if the company continues to expand, he’d love
to stay in Goochland and leave Velatis where it got its start
many years ago.
Jan recently sent out a package full of caramels to a serviceman
in Iraq. One of America’s heroes will soon be treated to a
Haneke said he hoped the Servais’s continued to make his
“They have helped to pick up the attitude of quite a many of
us,” he said.
For those who want to purchase Velatis caramels, they can either
call 888-4-VELATIS or stop by the store on Maidens Loop from 10
a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on