CASHMERE, Wash. — After more than 100 years in business, Liberty Orchards Co., the Washington state maker of Aplets & Cotlets fruit candies, has announced it will permanently close June 1.
Company president Greg Taylor, 72, grandson of Liberty Orchards co-founder Armen Tertsagian, said the family business has been seeking a buyer for several years with no luck. Taylor, who’s run the company 43 years, said he’s “very, very ready” to retire and the younger generations of the family are not interested in keeping the operation going.
“It’s bittersweet, but definitely more sweet than bitter. Obviously, we’re disappointed it can’t continue, but it’s time for us all to move on,” Taylor told the Capital Press Friday. “We’re so appreciative of all those who have supported our company.”
Liberty Orchards will continue to seek a buyer for its assets.
Through the decades, the company has bought ingredients — concentrates, purees and freeze-dried fruit — from processors worldwide. Apple concentrates were mainly sourced from Washington state apples.
The company’s closure will impact around 55 full-time employees.
“We’re proud to have provided employment for thousands of families over the past more than 100 years,” said Taylor.
The closure will mean people can no longer buy Aplets & Cotlets candies after this June.
When the company released news of its impending closure, the community of Cashmere, Wash., near Wenatchee, was shaken.
“Liberty Orchards is part of Cashmere’s identity,” Cashmere’s mayor, Jim Fletcher, told Eater Seattle, a food publication.
In a statement, the Cashmere Chamber of Commerce said that Liberty Orchards has made Cashmere “a traveler destination.”
On Aplets & Cotlets’ Facebook announcement about closing, hundreds of people commented, many calling the upcoming closure “heartbreaking” and “sad.” Many shared memories about touring the factory.
“I have been enjoying Aplets & Cotlets for over 50 years. I truly hope someone buys the business and continues the tradition,” said one comment.
Liberty Orchards was founded in 1920 by two Armenian immigrants, Mark Balaban and Armen Tertsagian.
The two started their venture by buying a small orchard, but times were tough, and they searched for ways to make use of surplus fruit. After research and development, they launched their first candy line, an apple and walnut confection based on the famous Near Eastern candy known as Turkish Delight.
This they called Aplets, the “confection of the fairies.”
A few years later, they created a second product, Cotlets, made with apricots and walnuts.
Over the decades, the company expanded its product line to include Fruit Delights, Dessert Delights, Fruitlets, Orchard Bars and other offerings.
Since 1920, three generations of family members have managed the business.
The second generation, John Chakirian and Richard Odabashian, ran the business from 1956 into the 1980s. Since then, Greg Taylor, the third generation, has served as company president.
Taylor said the fourth-generation family members didn’t grow up in Cashmere and have their own careers and families elsewhere, which is why there’s no one to carry on the business.
“People are sad we’re closing, but we’re grateful for the time we’ve had,” he said.