BOONE — Citing significant impacts to its industry due to pandemic restrictions, Hospitality Mints announced to about 75 employees last week that it will be closing its Boone plant.
Founded in 1976, Hospitality Mints has been in business for more than 40 years, manufacturing soft and hard mints for restaurants and hotels as well as candies sold at retailers across the country. It is the largest supplier of custom mints in the U.S. In 2018, the Boone-based company was acquired by Mount Franklin Foods, based in El Paso, Texas.
Mount Franklin, which manufactures a variety of candy and nut products for the retail and food service industries, operates seven manufacturing facilities and three distribution centers across North America, according to Walter Kaudelka, chief financial officer and chief operations officer for Hospitality Mints.
With sales down 80 percent as a result of COVID-19 impacts on the hospitality industry, the company began considering its options about two months ago, Kaudelka said. The Hospitality Mints company and brand will be retained, but its operations will be absorbed by other facilities, he said. The exact closing date is not certain, but is currently anticipated to be June 2021.
Hospitality Mints had already laid off staff due to the pandemic, going from a staff of 150 to about 75, he said, and remaining staff are working reduced hours. Staff have been offered incentives to remain with the plant as its activities wind down, and employees have been offered jobs at other Mount Franklin facilities. Kaudelka expects that 10 or 15 employees will relocate.
“It’s very sad,” Kaudelka said, noting that he has been with the company since 2001, and some employees have been with Hospitality Mints for 25 to 30 years or more. “We have an incredible staff of people.”
“It was an extremely rough day last week when we informed the group,” he added. “(But) when we made this announcement, our staff was completely understanding. They saw it coming. They were, I think, relieved that they at least now know what the future is.”
The company is working with local employers to find placements for Hospitality Mints workers and is planning to offer them additional assistance, such as job fairs and resume advice. Kaudelka urged local employers to consider hiring Hospitality Mints employees.
The company was founded by Mitchell Minges, who developed his skills for making soft butter mints while working a summer job with a husband-and-wife team in Rockingham, N.C. Minges started his own candy-making business using copper kettles and marble slabs, and he introduced the concept of individually wrapped pieces with an imprinted logo or special message.
Minges sold the company in 2000, and Hospitality Mints was owned by Linsalata Capital prior to its sale to Mount Franklin. As of 2015, according to previous Watauga Democrat reports, the company sold mints to about 90 national restaurant chains, hotels and grocery and specialty retailers, with 10,000 to 12,000 logos on file. It produced 1.8 billion mints per year and was nearly a $40 million business.
In 2017, Hospitality Mints was awarded the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce’s Alfred Adams Award for Economic Development.
Kaudelka said the company leases its 55,000-square-foot facility on Candy Lane in Boone and 40,000-square-foot distribution facility in Deep Gap.