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1-800-Flowers expanding candy business

Some Fannie May chocolates.

Some Fannie May chocolates. Credit: Handout

The Carle Place florist and gift retailer 1-800-Flowers.com has decided to aggressively expand its Fannie May chocolates division, signing a 62-store franchise deal across the Midwest and Florida.

The stores will be operated by a newly formed independent franchising company, GB Chocolates Llc, which expects to open three Fannie May stores in Minnesota before Christmas.

The franchise company agreed to take over operations of 17 existing Fannie May stores in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan; and to open at least 45 new stores by 2014, 1-800-Flowers said in a Tuesday news release. The geographic franchise rights include several Midwestern states, and specific cities in Florida and Ohio.

Financial terms were not made public.

"Fannie May is a beloved chocolate brand with a long history of unsurpassed product quality and one of our fastest growing gourmet gift brands," 1-800-Flowers chief executive Jim McCann said. The company bought Fannie May Confection Brands Inc. in 2006.

"This growth is fueled by our multichannel strategy that includes our company-owned stores, e-commerce, wholesale, fundraising, business gifting and now franchising."

Founded in 1920 as a single store on North LaSalle Street in Chicago, the Fannie May business once reached from North Dakota to Florida, with 250 stores, and 1-800-Flowers is using the former locations as a blueprint for its planned expansion now, the company said.

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