Velatis In The News - Richmond Times Dispatch

Richmond Times-Dispatch
December 2, 2002

Candy Maker Returns to Richmond Roots
By Gregory J. Gilligan

William Servais fondly remembers eating Velatis caramel candies during the holidays when he was growing up in the Washington area. He was devastated in 1996 when the candy maker went out of business during bankruptcy proceedings of its parent company, department store retailer Woodward & Lothrop.

Servais knew he had to do something. So he persuaded his family to buy the candy business.

“To be able to buy that brand and bring back the nostalgia was something that was intriguing and challenging,” Servais said.

Velatis was founded in the 1860s in Richmond. It moved to downtown Washington after its store here burned. In 1972, Velatis became part of Woodward & Lothrop.

After buying Velatis, the family moved it operations to Florida. Candy was sold through the Internet or phone orders.

Yet William Servais wanted to rejuvenate the business even more.

He moved the Velatis operations to Goochland County in September to return to its Richmond roots. About 500 pounds of caramels are made there daily.

Servais also persuaded the Hecht’s department store chain to sell Velatis in some of its Washington-area stores. The product has been a big hit.

Seventeen varieties of Italian-style Velatis caramels are now sold at 12 Hecht’s stores in the Washington-Baltimore area.

“Sales have gone spectacularly,” said Frank Guzzetta, Hecht’s president and chief executive officer. “Customers have come out of the woodwork to buy it. It has been incredible.”

Hecht’s also sells Velatis at its store in Regency Square mall.

The caramels also can be purchased at the factory store.