Chocolate can be for nearly any occasion – a romantic gesture, a congratulations, a condolence or just because. It’s a special treat at the holidays or for birthdays. And for 70 years, Central Ohioans have turned to one particular brand of chocolate for these moments and everything in between.
Founded in 1952, the Anthony-Thomas Candy Company celebrates seven decades in business in 2022.
“We’ve been very fortunate to be a lot of people’s tradition,” says Nick Trifelos, national sales manager and part of the fifth generation of the family-owned business.
Tradition figures heavily into Anthony-Thomas’ operations. Nick says the candy company uses some of the same recipes his great-great grandfather Anthony Zanetos dreamed up even before the business was officially incorporated.
Zanetos immigrated from Greece in 1907 and took a position as an apprentice candy maker. He spent the next several years perfecting his craft and pursuing various business opportunities. He also fell in love, got married and had a son, Thomas.
When Thomas returned from serving in WWII, the father-son duo teamed up to start their own business. The pair would eventually open the Crystal Fountain, serving light lunches, homemade ice cream and homemade candies. But they realized one particular product was selling better than anything else: their homemade candies.
In 1952, it was full steam ahead on their confections, and combining their first names, Anthony-Thomas was born.
“A lot of what has allowed us to grow and develop as a company is that we still to this day stand to our traditional recipes, and to a lot of our core beliefs,” Nick says.
Core beliefs like being a part of the community, fostering an environment that creates long-term employees, and using the highest-quality ingredients possible.
“We only use 100% premium ingredients and we only use real chocolate,” Nick says.
That chocolate covers a plethora of confections, with a list that’s always growing.
One of Anthony-Thomas’ oldest and most popular confections is its old-fashioned vanilla butter cream. Creams also come in a variety of other flavors like raspberry, lemon, strawberry and black walnut.
In the Anthony-Thomas arsenal there are also fudges, brittles and truffles. The confectioner pops their own popcorn to make caramel corn. There are nut dips with pecans or cashews, and chocolate-covered nuts, including Brazil nuts and peanut patties. Marshmallows, graham crackers and pretzels are enrobed in chocolate. There are mint meltaways and peppermint bark. English Toffee is one of the company’s top sellers, but the number one spot is reserved for none other than the Buckeye.
Anthony-Thomas has licensing rights for the official OSU Buckeye – and turns out more than 12 million of the candies a year.
The company also whips up a variety of seasonal favorites like coconut bonbons and peppermint bark at Christmastime, sea salt caramel hearts for Valentine’s Day, and cream eggs and chocolate bunnies at Easter (even using some molds that date back to the ’70s).
Anthony-Thomas sweets are never far away with 13 retail locations in nearly every corner of the Columbus region. They also offer sales and shipping through their website, can be found on Amazon, and at other retailers across the country.
As Anthony-Thomas moves onto year 71 and beyond, expansion is on the horizon. Nick says a plan is in place to expand their current production facility at 1777 Arlingate Lane on the West Side of Columbus. They’ll look to add a few more production lines as well as some wrapping machines. And it’s a process that will be made easier thanks to some foresight by Nick’s grandfather, Joe Zanetos. Joe was instrumental in designing the production facility that the company moved into in 1995, and included knock-out walls in the design which will allow Anthony-Thomas to expand its footprint without damaging the structural integrity of the building.
Nick says forward-thinking was a critical skill his grandfather brought to the table, as every subsequent generation has had its own mark on the operation that’s helped turn Anthony-Thomas into the Columbus institution it is today.
“With each generation of our family that’s been in the business, everyone has had a different leadership style which has helped shape the business we are,” he says.
Joe, who currently serves as company president, shaped Anthony-Thomas’ growth in the ’80s and ’90s.
“He really made a lot of strategic advancements for our company that positioned us well,” Nick says. “He had a lot of foresight that was able to make sure that we could stay competitive in the industry and made sure to think of the future. He was able to understand and recognize what we needed for the next 30 years, not just the present.”
1991 would usher in the fourth generation of the family, as Candi Trifelos, Nick’s mother, officially joined the company and now serves as vice president. Nick says his mother was able to fine-tune and amplify their marketing efforts, while also building the retail division. He says she knew what was needed to stay relevant in the community.
With generations of family in the candy business, Nick grew up immersed in the world of Anthony-Thomas. He recalls packing boxes as a young boy, sitting on a stool to reach them, then coming in during summer breaks and working part-time as he got older. Over the years, he’s worked across the facility, from spending time in the kitchen to working on the lines and managing retail locations.
Nick says he wasn’t always sure he would join the company, but a position opened up as he was finishing university that was a good fit. When he initially joined full-time a few years ago, his role centered around sales and introductory marketing and advertising. After the passing of his uncle, Steve Scully, who served as VP and business partner to Candi, Nick’s role shifted.
Nick feels he brings a fresh set of eyes and a connection to a younger audience to the company.
“I have been really pushing for a lot more partnerships in the community,” he says.
It’s part of what gives the brand its staying power.
“I think something that’s really crucial to still being relevant after 70 years is that we are so involved with the community,” he says.
Nick likes to work with local restaurants and local ice cream companies, and has seen partnerships in the form of a Schmidt’s Cream Puff and an Anthony-Thomas beer that’s in the works.
Nick knows that it takes a unique family dynamic to successfully run a business for five generations.
“You really have to have a passion for it because it is a job,” he says.
The family is not just owners by name, but actively involved in the everyday operations of the business, Nick says.
It also requires a close family relationship with personalities that align. Nick says maybe it’s a calling, but it requires something special to work with family members all day, then still have them be a main part of your life outside of work.
“I’m able to work with them every day and then still sit down for Sunday dinners and still go to their house after work sometimes, still go on family vacations,” he says.
Fans can get a peek at what 70 years of candy making looks like as Anthony-Thomas offers tours of its production facility during the summer months. Tours can be booked online.
For more information, visit anthony-thomas.com.
All photos by Susan Post