Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

C.A. Asher Candy Co., Inc., 1910
20 Woodlawn Street and 5537 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19144

Harold E. Spaulding, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

Chester A. Asher, a Canadian Scotch-English farm boy, started his candy company in Center City Philadelphia in 1892. In 1899, he moved the company to a building he had bought at 5537 Germantown Avenue. 1 In 1910, he built a three story brick grape juice plant behind his store and candy-making operation. 2 By 1920, an even larger three story brick plant had been added behind the 1910 building. In 1930, a four story brick plant was built behind the 1920 addition and all three plants were connected to each other. As the company grew, it became a well-known East Coast candy maker, wholesaling its product to large department stores, which marketed it as "Asher's Candy."
 
After World War II, Chester Asher's four sons operated the business. It slowly declined in profitability until it was declared to be "two weeks from bankruptcy" in 1966. At that point, 35 employees were producing 125,000 pounds of candy per year and the fourth of Chester Asher's sons died.
 
Two of Chester's grandsons, Jack Asher and his brother Bob Asher, took over production. As a result of the Asher's aggressive sales and production program, the company now produces and sells more than 3.3 million pounds of candy per year with over 100 employees.
 
To obtain the production area required for this dramatic increase, Jack and Bob Asher bought four adjacent stores and a small movie theater across Armat Street from the original buildings. The Ashers linked the stores with an overhead conveyor to the theatre, converted to a cooling room/warehouse. The original plant buildings on the north side of Armat Street were joined to the theater by an even longer enclosed overhead conveyor over Armat Street. Shipments are made from the converted theater and expansion continues within the four former stores. Early in 1989, a new 24 inch wide candy line was installed.
 
The success of the Asher Candy Company in recent years has been a source of pride for the community. Through development, expansion, and modernization, the company has maintained its financial success and provided a stable base for growth within the community.

1  "American Journal of Progress—Germantown and Vicinity, 1899" on file at the Germantown Historical Society.
2  "A Grape Juice Factory" (1910), found in "Industries" file, Box 1, Envelope 2, at the Germantown Historical Society.


Update May 2007 (by Linny Schenk & Michael Parrington):
The entry for this firm in The Workshop of the World ended on a hopeful note: “Through development, expansion, and modernization, the company has maintained its financial success and provided a stable base for growth within the community" (p. 3-10). Sadly, Asher’s Chocolates (there is a separate firm with the name Asher Candy, Inc., created after 2002) announced its intention to leave Philadelphia in 1998, attributing the move in part to the need to cut expenses. “Robert Asher, grandson of the company founder Chester Asher, said that [by] leaving behind city payroll taxes and security expenses, the company will cut its overhead by at least 7 percent" (Philadelphia Daily News Nov. 5, 1996). The venerable candy firm continues to manufacture chocolates in a 125,000-square-foot plant in Souderton, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

The former Asher buildings on Armat Street are occupied by Covenant House Pennsylvania (Philadelphia Daily News July 19, 2006); those on Germantown Avenue by small stores (cake shop, martial arts studio).