Zitner’s Butter Krak Eggs and Philadelphia’s Centennial Easter Tradition

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It is written in the logo: “Fine Confections since 1922”.

Zitner’s, the Philadelphia confectionery company known for its chocolate-covered eggs, turns 100 this year and continues to produce egg-shaped confections filled with coconut, buttercream, peanut butter and its concoction. “Butter Krak”.

The local candies originated when a couple, Sam and Anne Zitner, started making and selling candy eggs in their home in the 1920s, before making their business operational a few years later. The company is no longer in the family, but has been based in the same North Philadelphia plant for about 80 years, according to current owner Evan Prochniak.

Even though the people at the helm have changed, the company’s revenue remains constant. So does the sense of tradition and “family atmosphere” within the factory, Prochniak told Billy Penn.

“I have people [who have been] there for over 30 years, and they teach young employees to take pride in the product we make,” Prochniak said. “They pass on the techniques that make Zitner’s candies so good. When I took over, they all showed me the way.

Sam and Annie Zitner began making candy eggs and selling them out of their garage in the 1920s, according to Prochniak, who cited conversations he had with Arthur Sherman, the Zitners’ nephew. Once the business proved successful, the couple moved to a factory on American Street and began producing even more eggs.

Butter Krak’s beloved recipe — a coconut and buttercream center covered in dark chocolate and toasted coconut — may have been around almost as long as the company.

The Zitners created it “at the start” of the business, Prochniak said. Leon Sherman’s obituary notes that Annie Zitner showed her nephew how to make them in the 1930s.

Butter Krak is still one of the company’s bestsellers, Prochniak told Fox 29 News this year, along with the Butter Cream variety. Prochniak has handwritten copies of the recipe that date back to the early 1950s — when eggs sold for just 5 cents, he told Billy Penn.

In the 1940s, the Zitners sold the business to nephew Arthur and his brother Leon. The Shermans ran the business for about half a century. Prochniak estimated that they moved to the current factory space at 3120 N. 17th St. in the 1940s.

As well as its bite-size sweets, the company is reportedly producing a hundred-pound decorated chocolate egg for the Easter display in the window of the Girard Bank on Broad Street, according to Arthur’s obituary.

Facebook / Zitner’s

The two brothers were a “force in the business district of North Philadelphia, providing jobs and stability to residents of the community during a time when there was a significant flight of white businesses to the suburbs,” the obituary reads. .

Although Arthur would have liked to streamline certain aspects of the egg-making process to reduce production costs, Leon rejected most of his suggestions and wanted to continue doing things the old fashioned way, even fixing the eggs himself. broken factory machinery.

“Easter eggs are made, more or less, the same way they were half a century ago,” Arthur told The Inquirer in 1990 when Leon died. “There is a lot of manual work. By staying put, we have become unique.

Although it still bears the name of its founding family, the company has seen a few new owners since its inception 100 years ago.

The death of Leon Sherman in 1990 prompted the company’s first move out of the family. Arthur retired from candy making, and Sidney Rosenblatt – the current CFO of Universal Display Corporation – bought the company and ran it for 20 years.

Evan Prochniak, Kenneth Schuster and Sam Sherman bought the candy-making business and its North 17th Street factory in 2010. The original plan was to sell the business and develop the property into something else, Prochniak told the ‘Inquire.

But the broker representing the former owner managed to convince him otherwise, and Prochniak’s view of the business changed once he learned more.

“I’m a candy maker,” he told NJ.com in 2016.

The inside of a Zitner's Butter Krak egg
Emily Wren for Zitner’s

Zitner’s candy eggs have been an Easter season hit with locals over the years, appearing at both small retailers and chains like Wawa, Walmart and ACME. Even when the Great Recession hit, eggs flew off the shelves (and left customers frustrated when they couldn’t find any).

“Philadelphians love good food in general,” Prochniak said. “That doesn’t change in candy. We recognize good quality when we taste it.

Zitner’s has begun distributing its candies beyond the Philadelphia area in recent years. In 2016, stores in Texas, Arizona, Ohio and Oregon began selling local Easter candy. That same year, the company launched a “Christmas DeLights” product line with peppermint, raspberry, caramel, and peanut butter filled candies.

Letter from a 92-year-old Zitner fan in Florida
Facebook / Zitner’s

In 2018, the company voluntarily filed for bankruptcy to deal with “over-indebtedness,” the company’s attorney told the Philadelphia Business Journal. But business continued.

In the company’s 100th year, an enrobing machine (which coats chocolate candies) installed in the 1950s is still working, according to Prochniak, who said he still has the receipt for the equipment on file. Almost everything else was replaced, as some were beyond repair.

One of the retired machines produced marshmallow and toffee eggs, Prochniak said.

He hopes to start bringing them back, but on a smaller scale. He said he had been working on old company recipes to develop a “candy club”, which would allow a limited number of members to receive candy made from the resurrected recipes, produced in small batches.

“We have a lot of people who were big fans of our marshmallow (including me),” Prochniak said. “And I’m determined to start making them again.”

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