If at first you don’t succeed . . .

The holidays seem long past. But at our house, there are three things that still remind us of that happy season.
Our welcoming wreath is on the front porch, we’re using up a few red cocktail napkins when we have friends in for coffee and cookies, and we’re still enjoying a box of Russell Stover chocolates our son brought one holiday evening.
In fact, we each had one of those luscious treats last Saturday after dinner. Mine was a dark chocolate raspberry cream. Yummy!
It’s not unusual to eat Russell Stover chocolates any time of the year. But this holiday season was different for me.
Just before Christmas, Randy, one of my pool friends, told us about the Russell Stover factory in Abilene, Kan. (about 70 miles from our home) and the fact that Russell Stover was born in Kansas.
I’ve been intrigued by Russell Stover ever since. And became even more intrigued when I learned that as a young man, Stover had farmed in Saskatchewan, Canada close to where my husband grew up.
Stover was born in a sod house in 1888 close to the tiny town of Alton, Kan. Sadly, Stover’s mother died when he was just two years old. That fact, coupled with the Kansas drought, caused his father to return to Iowa, where young Russell grew up on his grandfather’s farm.
It was in Iowa where he met Clara Lewis, who was destined to be his wife and candy-making partner.
As a wedding present, Russell and Clara were given a 580-acre wheat and flax farm close to Weyburn, Sask. So they moved to Canada.
Unfortunately, their first year resulted in a complete crop failure. So once again they moved—this time to Winnipeg, where Russell got a job in a candy factory.
This led to a series of positions in candy factories as he learned the trade.
Russell and Clara were living in Omaha, Neb. in 1921 when Christian Nelson asked Stover to partner with him on his new confection: the “I-Scream Bar.”
Stover renamed the bar “Eskimo Pie” and it was an instant success. In Omaha alone, a quarter-of-a-million pies were sold in a single 24-hour period.
But their gold mine was to be short-lived as unscrupulous candy manufacturers began making look-alike Eskimo Pies.
When Nelson and Stover were unable to protect their patent, they sold the company in 1923 for the paltry sum of $30,000. And once again, Russell and Clara moved–this time to Denver, Colo.
Still not discouraged by their misfortune, the Stovers soon began selling boxes of “Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies.”
Clara made the hand-dipped chocolates and Russell was in charge of distribution. Immediately, their business was a huge success and two years later, the first Russell Stover factory began operations in Denver.
When Stover died 29 years later, Russell Stover Candies was distributing 11 million pounds of candy annually and generating sales of $18 million.
Today, still operating with its 1923 slogan “Only the Finest,” the company manufactures 100 million pounds of chocolate a year and is the largest distributor of boxed chocolates in the United States.
Just imagine if Russell and Clara had found success as Canadian flax farmers. What a loss that would have been for chocolate lovers worldwide!
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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