292 Main Street (1920-1980)
The first stop is the Fox Cross company, best known for making the Charleston Chew.
The start of this company is kind of an unusual one. Donley Cross was a Shakespearean stage actor in San Francisco in the early 1900s. During one performance, Cross fell of the stage, injuring his back. The injury ended Cross’s acting career forcing him to look for other work. For some reason he thought candy would be the next logical career choice.
With his friend Charlie Fox, Cross opened the Fox-Cross company in 1920 with the launch of a candy bar called the Nu Chu.
The candy bar that made them famous wasn’t launched until 1922 when they took vanilla flavored nougat, covered it with milk chocolate, and called it the Charleston Chew, trying to capitalize on the popular dance craze at the time.
Ownership of the company changed hands many times and there is actually no clear history as to why production ended up here in Cambridge. The earliest they appear in the city directory is 1931 when they were listed at 26 Landsdowne street right by the old NECCO plant. The company moved to this location in 1946.
A new wave for Fox-Cross really started when Nathan Sloane bought the company in 1957. Sloane himself has a storied history in candy. He began his career in 1925 at age 16 when he started distributing penny candy from manufacturers to family-owned shops. Sloane eventually bought Kendall Confectionery, a distributor in Kendall Square, and American Nut and Chocolate (a nut roaster in South Boston), but it was always his dream to manufacture a successful candy bar.
Although the Charleston Chew was already well known, Sloane did much to bolster the brand. He eventually moved the business to a larger factory in Everett, automated production, and built the brand name through advertising. Under Sloan, Charleston Chews were one of the first candies to suggest that customers use their home refrigerators to freeze the product. And now Chew lovers swear by the “Charleston Crack” which is freezing them and then smacking them on a hard surface to create bite-size pieces. Sloan never changed the original Charleston Chew recipe, but he did introduce new flavors like chocolate and strawberry. He doubled the size of the production line before selling the company in 1980.
By 1980, national candy conglomerates, chiefly Hershey’s and Mars/M&M had taken over the candy scene and Fox Cross suffered a fate typical in the industry. After Sloane sold the company to Nabisco in 1980, Nabisco sold the business to the drug firm Warner Lambert, who sold it in 1993 to Tootsie Roll Industries. Tootsie Roll also owns the remains of another storied local outfit, the James O. Welch Company, best known as the maker of Junior Mints, Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babies.