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London Calling

There's no room for Oompa Loompas at Harry London Candies.


Chocolate making has always seemed a somewhat magical art. But while Gene Wilder may have the average Jane convinced that singing men of small stature create delicious sweets, Harry London Candies is out to set the record straight, with chocolate factory tours that give candy junkies a taste of real life inside its sweet walls.

Located next to the Akron airport, the massive factory carries out the systematic creation of that sugary confection fit for a king (but not for the waistline). There, groups of salivating visitors are herded through 45-minute tours in hopes of unraveling the riddle of chocolate making -- only to discover that the factory is home to some of the most tedious jobs imaginable.

There's the mold spinner, who simply spins the large molds used to create chocolate forms such as cute bunnies and Santa Clauses, and must do so, by hand, every 20 minutes for 10 hours straight.

At the other end of the line are the quality-assurance workers, who must sort through 72 to 120 pieces of candy per minute to find the defective delights. These hideous chocolates -- bulging buckeyes and mangled mints, dubbed "Boo Boos" -- are not fit for sale, but they are good enough to be given to tourists, as well as employees and the local food bank.

The tour whisks visitors through all the stages of candy production, from the Butterscotch and Caramel Kitchen to the Wedding and Party Room, both of which are mere sideshows to the Tank Room, where 80,000 pounds of burbling liquid chocolate emit a smell that renders tourists clawing at the vat walls.

And though Oompa Loompas may be good for gawking tourists, none were hired by Harry London to watch over things. Evidently their entertainment value is not very efficient on the assembly line.

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