Fourth generation joins in business

The Simons family works in the candy kitchen at Enstrom Candies in Grand Junction, where almond toffee is still made by hand in much the same way as when the company was founded more than 50 years ago. Pictured, from left, are Doug Simons Jr., Doug and Jamee Simons and Jim Simons. Brothers Doug Simons Jr. and Jim Simons represent the fourth generation to join in the family operation. (Photo courtesy Enstrom Candies)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Doug Simons Jr. and Jim Simons grew up in the family candy business.

Doug Simons, Jr.

As children, the brothers boxed products and waited on customers. And when they had the opportunity, they’d invite their friends to join in a sweet binge.

But now that they’re older, the brothers have assumed far more demanding roles in helping to manage Enstrom Candies, a Grand Junction company that goes back four generations and more than 50 years. “They’ve given us an opportunity to carry the torch,” Doug says.

Officially, 29-year-old Doug Simons Jr. works as assistant director of manufacturing. 

The 27-year-old Jim Simons works as assistant director of sales.

The titles reflect in part their respective interests in production and marketing.

Jim Simons

In reality, though, the two are involved in nearly all phases of the business — and learning as they go. “We’re both doing all of it together,” Jim says.

That includes working in the candy kitchen, where batches of almond toffee are still made by hand in much the same way their great-grandparents, Chet and Vernie Enstrom, did it when they founded the company in 1960.

Doug Simons Jr. has been working at Enstrom Candies full-time for nearly three years. Jim Simons has worked there for more than two years.

The two say their parents, Doug and Jamee Simons, encouraged them to pursue other interests — to the point, in fact, of not allowing them to immediately go to work at the company.

But the brothers always suspected they’d ultimately return to Grand Junction and the family business.

Doug Simons Jr. says he’s spent a lot of time working with the director of manufacturing and learning about the automated machinery that produces candy. “I’m really intrigued by the machines and how they run.”

Jim Simons prepared for work in the confection industry by completing a nine-month internship in the marketing department of Jelly Belly Candy Co.

Both brothers recently returned from a two-week course in confectionary technology offered at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. They say they learned about the chemistry and various techniques that go into manufacturing a wide range of candies. The training helped to explain many of the processes in place at the Enstrom plant in Grand Junction, Jim says. “So that’s why they do it.”

The brothers also have been involved in what’s been a more pronounced push into wholesale markets to add to what’s long been seasonal mail order and Internet business.

Enstrom Candies has developed a new line of products specifically for the wholesale market, and along with them retail-friendly packaging.

The company also has been working with distributors as well as directly with national chains to place their products on store shelves.

Doug says the expansion into wholesale markets constitute part of a continual effort to increase sales and improve the operations of the company. “We’re always trying to figure out ways to make it better.”

Quoting his father, Jim describes the process in terms of encountering problems and solving them.

The brothers say they’re excited about extending the family business for a fourth generation. And while the issue remains hypothetical for now, they fully expect a fifth generation to feel the same way.

“I don’t think you’d have to encourage them,” Doug says.