Candy company, families part of history

Don McAlavy

Commercial candy making in Clovis began in 1926 when Kalie H. Saykally established the Saykally Candy Company at 512 Second St.
Saykally was born in Beirut, Syria, in 1885. He came to America in 1893 and settled in Chicago. He came to Clovis in 1926 and married Hedrick Schoelz that same year. Their children were Regina, Viola, and Derrell.
Regina grew up in the candy company. She died Dec. 9, 2003.
Kalie Saykally died in 1941 in Clovis. His business was continued by his wife, Hedrick. She and her family ran it until 1949 and then Leslie Stillwell took it over. He operated at the Saykally site for a couple years and then moved it to 2211 W. Seventh.
Stillwell had the candy company until he sold out to Gene Gibbs in 1974. Later Gibbs changed the name to Leslie-Gibbs Candy Company.
Over the next three decades, Gibbs used his knowledge of the grocery industry to grow the Leslie Candy Company into a wholesale manufacturing company with customers — convenience store and supermarket chains, regional produce and specialty stores — all across the United States.
The company never strayed from its winning recipes and old-fashioned cooking methods. Gibbs was really a master candy maker.
The Saykally Candy Company was the forerunner of the present Leslie Candy and Manufacturing Company on West Seventh, which is now owned by Greg Southard.
Southard is the son of former Clovis News Journal Editor Bill Southard.
Regina told Greg her dad used to make candies, place them in a wooden box he wore on his back, then stroll along Main Street, selling them to eager customers.
“I had been working for the Bayer Company,” Greg Southard said, “a large pharmaceutical firm, traveling all over the country.
“When my wife Mary and I decided in 2001 that we wanted to leave Santa Fe, we sat down and made a list of the things we wanted in a community. As we made our list, it occurred to us that Clovis fit many of the things we wanted, including affordable housing and good schools.
“We expected to return to Houston, but traffic was one of the concerns on the list that we didn’t want to deal with. Of all the places we considered, Clovis was at the top of our list.
“I’ve been in contact with David Lansford off and on for 25 years, since we graduated from CHS together. Mary and I were planning to visit Clovis over the July Fourth (2001) holiday, so out of curiosity I called David to see if he knew of any business that might be for sale.
“He suggested that I contact Ernie Kos (we were in high school together) at the Chamber of Commerce. I came to Clovis about six months later and met with Ernie, who put me in touch with several people in the community, including Kenneth Jones of Kenneth Realty. Kenneth and Gene Gibbs had discussed listing the candy company for sale.”
Mary Southard said buying a candy company “sounded interesting.” Their young children thought it would be fun.
Greg Southard said he will continue the 50-year Leslie Candy Company tradition.
“We want to make sure that everyone can continue to enjoy the same great ‘haystacks,’ ‘brittles,’ ‘chicken legs’ and ‘peanut patties.’
“Only 2 percent of the candy we manufacture is sold in Clovis,” Greg Southard said. “Sixty percent is shipped out of state.”
Like Gene Gibbs, Greg Southard said he will continue to use, exclusively, Valencia peanuts from Portales and will use as many locally grown products as he can. They are using the same recipes and methods to make the candy. The company also continues to make snow cone and fountain syrup in 18 different flavors.
The Leslie Candy Company’s history, starting with the Saykallys, is now 78 years old. It’s still an old-fashioned store that makes stacks of many different candies with rich aromas that entice kids to lick their lips and adults to recall the candy tastes and smells of their youth.
The Southards said they feel they are a part of the history of Clovis.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian.