When confectioner Larry Ring sold his candy and nut business on the upper East Side of Manhattan, he knew exactly what he would do next. He would sell licorice through the mail.
The idea for the business came from Larry's customers. He says, "There were people from all over the world living in New York City, and many would come in and ask me for licorice from Holland, or Sweden or Finland."
Larry had never heard of many of the licorice brands requested, so he called various embassies to find out who made a particular type and how he could order it for his customers. And once he began carrying licorice as a regular item, it became a big hit. He says, "I couldn't keep it on the shelves."
Working out of his home on Long Island, Larry developed his Licorice International catalog, which offered about 50 kinds of licorice from nine countries. Among his customers was a sweet little lady named Anna in Lincoln, Nebraska. Anna knew her grown sons loved licorice and surprised each of them with a package of treats on Father's Day. Soon the "boys" began looking forward to their licorice fix from Mom.
When Anna moved into a nursing home and stopped ordering licorice from Licorice International, her son Doug decided to take action. He searched through Anna's papers and found an old order form, gave it to his wife Elizabeth and suggested she might like to "surprise" him with a package of goodies. She did better than that…she bought the business (along with her husband and their very good friends, Ardith and John.)
In February 2002, Licorice International moved to its new headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska, where the new owners developed the licoriceinternational.com website and began filling orders from their homes.
Over the next year and a half the business grew rapidly. By the summer of 2003 the Erlandsons and Stuertzes realized that operating from their homes had become unwieldy and would limit further growth. Elizabeth and Ardith spotted a small space for rent in the College View area of Lincoln, and in August 2003 Licorice International moved to this new location. At first the owners intended to use this space primarily for fulfilling internet and mail orders. But soon the word got out and people from all over Lincoln started coming to buy licorice. Thus the retail section of Licorice International was born.
By 2005 it became clear that Licorice International had outgrown its College View location. Ardith and Elizabeth began looking around again and soon discovered the perfect location–a 4,450 square foot space in Lincoln's historic Haymarket district. That summer Licorice International moved for the third time in three and a half years. Its new shop provides plenty retail space for its ever-expanding line of licorice products, and allows a separate area in the back for the fulfillment of internet orders.
Today Licorice International offers nearly 160 types of licorice from 12 countries. In addition, its Haymarket store stocks a line of fine chocolates as well as other gourmet foods and candy dishes. Next time you're driving across country on Interstate 80 be sure to stop in. You'll be warmly welcomed by a member of the staff.