Friday, April 10, 2009

On the job
William N. Prifti, Chocolate maker/owner, Prifti Candy Co., Worcester

Age: 86
Residence: Worcester

Native of: Istanbul, Turkey

Family: Married. One son, two grandchildren

Time in current job: 43 years

What do you do?

“I make chocolate here seven days a week. Last year I sold tons and tons of Easter bunnies. I don’t know exactly how many.”

How do you make chocolate?

“I buy the chocolate from Nestle, then I have to cook to make the crèmes, to make the caramels, and there are different secrets to make it this way. I try every batch I make. If I don’t like it, I don’t put it out for sale. In one mixer I have milk chocolate, another dark and another white chocolate. That one holds 400 pounds of chocolate. After they are mixed then they go into the molds. On this machine I can make crème and caramel chocolates. They are cut by hand and this machine presses the crèmes and makes individual round soft centerpieces.”

Like valentine candy?

“Or anything like that. But it goes down this conveyor belt, which cools it like an air conditioner. Then at the end we pick up the pieces and put it in trays. Today we are making small boxes of chocolates for a wedding. A lot of people get married today, get divorced tomorrow. But the chocolate lives forever.”

I want to eat everything in your shop. Can you tell me what you have in your Easter baskets?

“This basket I started to make in the United States 25 years ago. It is a special design that no one can copy. It is a mold so that the entire basket is made of chocolate. I have milk chocolate, dark chocolate, anything you want. Everything is chocolate. All of the little eggs and bunnies in the basket I make here. The chocolate Easter bunnies are made from molds made in Germany. My biggest mold can make a five-foot Easter bunny. I make it to show, it’s too expensive. To make 100 baskets would take about an hour. It’s very, very hard. Easter is my biggest time of year but at Christmas, a lot of orders come in.”

Did you learn the candy business in Istanbul?

“Yes. I worked for someone and I made candy and pastry. Then when I came here, I started the candy business.”

Did you start your own business when you immigrated?

“No. When I came to the U.S. I worked at Drakes Candy, and then I went to Hebert’s Candy. Then after a while I decided to start this business. I came to the United States when I was about 34 or 35. I dreamed of coming here. The United States is the best country in the world. I started this business on October 11, 1965.”

Ever thought of retiring?

“I don’t want to retire. Maybe someday, I don’t know. Maybe when I die. I will keep going till I am six feet under. If I stay home I go crazy, sitting down and watching TV all day. I’m 86 years old. I don’t want to stop.”

How is business?

“Business is good, no problem. I have a little bit of hard times, not too bad. I’ve got no complaint. Because everything I make right here. We have the best quality; I haven’t changed the quality in all these years. My son, he can have the business, but he doesn’t want the business. You know the kids today, they have different ideas and my son has another job, but he still comes in here to help me.”

What would happen to the chocolate factory after you die?

“I don’t know, maybe shut down, we’ll see what happens. Kids today, they don’t want to learn. People ask, ‘How many hours do I have to work?’ ”

How many hours a week do you work?

“I work seven days a week. During Easter I work 12-hour days. My wife yells at me all the time because it’s too much. I tell her, ‘Hey, that’s all.’

“In the summer it’s quiet, but then I’m getting ready for the fall. It is mostly my wife and my cousin who work here.”

What is the best part of the job?

“Just making candy. When I sleep, I dream of making candy. I like to cook it all the time.”

What is the worst part of the job?

“Nothing. I love the chocolate.”

Do you wholesale your chocolate?

“No, because when you wholesale the quality goes down. They have to make money and I have to make money so I would have to cut corners to do that. I haven’t changed anything since 1965.”

Were there other chocolate factories like yours in Worcester when you started?

“Yes, I had a lot of competition. There were a lot of stores, I don’t know exactly how many. When I opened, people would say, ‘This guy will never make it, maybe a few months.’ But all of these guys have gone out of business, and I’m still here.”

Compiled by: Correspondent Richard Price

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