Dear Poydras and Julia,
I remember as a young child driving to the Garden District with my dad to help him with a job. We used to drive past the Merlin Chocolate Bunny factory. It always enthralled me because that’s where those good chocolate goodies came from. I seem to remember it along Magazine Street, where there is an auto shop now. I am no longer sure if that is the right location and would appreciate your insight in this matter. Also do you know what the heck is going on with Hubig’s Pies? We have been patiently waiting! – Claudia Dubret (New Orleans)
You really know how to push an emotional button, Claudia. In an age of global manufacturing, Hubig’s and Merlin’s were two rare products that could claim to be made in New Orleans. Hubig’s is coming back. Merlin’s is not, although the name will survive. Hubig’s made so-called “hand-sized” fried pies. The business was founded in 1922. In 2012 its building in Marigny was destroyed by a fire. Since then, the recovery has been in the works. The owners are reportedly developing a facility near Elmwood, close to the Huey P. Long bridge. Recently Andrew Ramsey told food writer Ian McNulty of the Picayune/Advocate, that the pies should be back on the market sometime in the summer. For a safe bet, I would look more toward the end of the summer. Maybe by then the COVID-19 war will be over and we can celebrate with fried apple pie.
As for Merlin’s, in 2011 the Merlin’s name and some assets were quietly sold to the R.M. Palmer’s company of Reading, Pennsylvania. Until then, Merlin’s had been the local bunny. Originally, its plant was in Uptown New Orleans; and then, it moved to Elmwood. Most hollow chocolate bunnies look and taste the same, but only Merlin’s could add a tag to the box proclaiming that it was made right here in New Orleans. Ponchatoula-based Elmer Chocolate Company was left as the only local large-scale candy manufacturer. Its products are classics, including the marshmallow Heavenly Hash, the solid chocolate Gold Brick and the nut-coated Pecan Egg. To add a chocolate bunny to the basket, however, Merlin’s was the only local alternative.
Gone, of course, were the “Made in New Orleans” tags. Instead, there were the messages, “An Easter Favorite Since 1947.” The small print says that the product is distributed by “Merlin Candies of Reading, PA.” After the sale Palmer’s announced that the Merlin’s brand would be sold in the New Orleans region at Wal-Marts, Rouses, Winn-Dixies and Publix stores. This past Easter, Poydras’ spy network did indeed report seeing the Merlin’s brand on local counters. Just be careful not to put all your bunnies in one basket.
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