Austin’s 130-Year Love Affair

If you need proof that Austin has a sweet tooth, look no further than Lammes Candies. The local confection institution will celebrate its 130th birthday in 2015—a tremendous milestone for this family-owned business.

Lammes Candies was founded in 1878 by William Wirt Lamme. Originally called the Red Front Candy Factory, the business was soon lost by Lamme in a poker game. But his son David Turner Lamme, Sr., came to town, settled the gambling debt of $800 and won back the business. The family reopened the store in 1885 as Lammes Candies, and the business has been family-owned and operated ever since. Austin had fewer than 25,000 citizens in 1885, but five generations later, Austin is booming, and so is business for Lammes.

The Texas Chewie Pecan Praline (always made using only Texas-grown pecans) has been in production since 1892 and is the company’s most popular candy. It’s joined on the shelves by hundreds of other creative creations, such as the Choc’Adillo, a chocolate-dipped cluster of roasted almonds and caramel, and the Cashew Critter—the same kind of confection—but with cashews instead of almonds. And it’s tough to ignore the citywide fervor Lammes’ chocolate-covered strawberries create in the spring as customers scramble to fill up on this limited-release item. “It’s remarkable, in this day and age, that a family business can sustain and even thrive,” says Pam Tiech, who runs the business with her siblings Bryan Tiech and Lana Schmidt—all Lamme descendants. “Business is hard enough, and when you couple that with family, it can be quite challenging. We’ve survived despite ourselves, but we have drawn on our strengths and, thanks to Austin, done well.”

Of course, the family doesn’t do it alone, and has relied on remarkable help along the way from dedicated employees like Mildred Walston, who is celebrating her 74th year with the company. In 2012, the Austin City Council named an entire week in Walston’s honor for her devotion to the business. “I’ve told Mildred that if she tries to retire, I will too,” says Pam. “She comes in two days each week and is like a mother hen and best friend to most of us. We couldn’t do it without her.”

The family hasn’t decided yet how they’ll celebrate their momentous birthday, but they’re looking forward to opening a fifth location before Christmas in the Hillside Shopping Center on Anderson Lane. “We were in Northcross Mall forever, but when they reconfigured it, the space didn’t work for us anymore,” says Pam. “We’re excited to be back in the neighborhood.”

Lammes is also reaching out to new Austinites through the Austin Independent Business Alliance’s Buy Local program, which it recently joined. “Austin is growing so fast, and it’s a challenge just to reach out to the new people in town,” says Pam. “We’re inviting people to come give us a try because we know they’ll find something in our store that they will fall in love with.” —Kristi Willis

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