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The Goo Goo Cluster: Nashville's "Official" Candy?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 22, 2024 3:03 am

The Goo Goo Cluster: Nashville's "Official" Candy?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 22, 2024 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, it's a family story, a business story, and a regional story; It's the story of how the Goo Goo cluster became the official candy of Nashville!

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I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means. Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts. presented by AT&T.

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18 plus, terms and conditions apply. See website for details. We continue with our American stories and up next we hear from Lori Spradley, the owner of the company, Goo Goo Cluster. You may have heard of this candy bar that was created back in 1912.

But if not, here's Lori to share a little bit of the history of the Goo Goo and where they are today. So Standard Candy Company was started in downtown Nashville in 1901 and they were making hard candies, caramels, single ingredient confections. And in 1912, the founder, Howell Campbell and his right-hand man Porter were in the kitchen playing around and they invented the Goo Goo Cluster. And it was the first time anyone combined multiple ingredients into a single finished product. So it was made of caramel, milk chocolate, peanuts and a marshmallow nougat. And at first it didn't have a name.

And Howell was selling them on a streetcar in downtown Nashville. And story goes that a teacher was on the train and asked him what he was going to call this new confection. And he was like, I have no idea. And the conversation shifted to his newborn son. They started asking what he was up to. And they said, well, he just started talking. He's saying words like Goo Goo Gaga. And they said, that's what you should call it. A Goo Goo.

They're so good. People will ask for them from birth. And now we're stuck with the silly name. So my grandfather had been in the confection industry and made wedding cakes and owned a bakery. And my dad out of business school discovered Standard Candy. It was on the verge of bankruptcy.

And he called his dad and was like, I think we can save this. And so they bought it in 82. And so I'm the third generation to be involved in the business.

And it's been a wild ride. When they purchased the company, it was only the original Goo Goo. And so they introduced the pecan variety, which at that time was called the Supreme. And it just replaced the peanuts with pecans. And that was in the 80s. And then in 90, early 90s, they introduced the peanut butter variety, which is a peanut butter center with peanuts and milk chocolate.

That's most of our favorite. I never thought I would work for the company. After college, I moved to New York City. I worked in sales, kind of did my thing for about six years and was just looking for something new. And at the same time, Goo Goo was going through some restructuring and changes. And I was kind of like, I think I can put my mark on this.

I'm qualified and I think, you know, we can have a lot of fun with this. So I did intern when I was 15 years old and couldn't drive to a job. I would go to work with my dad that summer. And they had a jar out front of all three flavors. And I probably had a Goo Goo every day. I called it a lunch. I was like, I was like, it's a peanut butter version. It's got some protein.

It counts. I honestly usually don't even have them at my house. Growing up, everyone was like, you have to have you. You're the Goo Goo house. You have to have them. And we just don't.

I don't think anyone. I guess maybe we've lost our sweet tooth. But we did give them out at Halloween. We lived on a really popular trick or treating street growing up and everyone knew we gave out full size Goo Goo clusters.

So we were extra popular on Halloween. I think it was in first grade, so I don't know what age I was turning, maybe six or seven. And I took my for my birthday party. I took my class to the factory and we all wore hair nets and got to see the entire process. And my friends still talk about it to this day. And I'm so glad they do remember it, because now with food regulations, I can barely get into the factory. So I'm glad we all got to experience that.

And I guess, you know, pretty good for a first grader. So in 2014, we opened up a retail store in downtown Nashville, and that was really become like our test kitchen. We're able to hand make any sort of confections we desire.

We get to kind of be our own Howell Campbell and make our own take on a Goo Goo cluster. So we started out making having with our pastry chef, making his own creations and putting all sorts of wonderful goodies together into a finished product. And we started, I guess, around the same time, partnering with local chefs and what we call our summer chef series. And so every summer we partner with six or so chefs in the community who get to create their own Goo Goo. We have a ton of fun with it because we all get to try all these new combinations. Outside of the summer chef series, we've also started partnering with other local businesses, one of them being a barbecuity, and they were celebrating a big anniversary. So they asked us to create a Goo Goo for them, and it actually uses barbecue sauce. So it's a little sweet.

It's a little spicy, a little funky and fun. And that's been a big hit. The Glen Campbell Museum created their own, and we even will create custom candies for corporate events or parties. There definitely are some big Goo Goo fans out there. We've got a huge fan out of Canada, and so he's big on Twitter and we kind of have fun with him.

He's been to visit a couple of times and been into our store. But most of the stories are just real nostalgic. A lot of people remember eating them with their grandparents or parents. One of our employees, Beth Sachon, she remembers sharing one with her mom at the checkout aisle in the grocery store.

They're just some really sweet memories and stories, and everyone's always wanting to share them with us, which we love. I think a fun thing about the brand is that it's really evolved over the years, but it stayed true to exactly what the original ingredients were. So back when it was first created, they were sold in a glass candy jar with no wrapper. And then that evolved to putting it in a little paper sleeve at the candy counter. And then it was wrapped in foil, similar to a peppermint patty.

And then it went to a sealed wrapper, kind of like it is today, but different imaging. It's really fun to be a part of a history. We still have a presence in downtown Nashville, right where the original one was first created.

It's truly a stone's throw from the old factory. Yeah, I'd say our biggest challenge is trying to find, trying to transition our customer base from the older generation, who remembers eating them as a kid, to younger generations and making it a little more young, fun, playful. And so that's what we're trying to tackle. That's what we want our store to be like. We want everyone to feel like a kid. It's also one of the few places downtown where kids are going to have fun.

We're not one of the honky-tonks or a museum. We're just a playful environment where you can feel like a kid again. And so it's been really fun to have that store to tell our real history and also get immediate customer feedback. And if you can't visit us in our downtown store in Nashville, we actually, you can design your own candy bar on our website. So, you can create your own confection. You can choose your chocolate, you choose your, any of your mix-ins. And we've got some weird things like potato chips and Fruity Pebbles and kids definitely go a little, a little crazy with their confections. They are throwing in all sorts of stuff that I personally don't think goes well together, but I'm sure with a ton of sugar, they're happy. We'll make it in our kitchen and ship it to you. We rolled that out during the pandemic. And it's been really fun to see people who are not able to visit Nashville still be able to participate.

Again a great job and a team effort by Madison, Faith and Robbie on the piece. A special thanks to Laura Spradley, owner of Goo Goo Cluster, a third generation family business trying to stay relevant in current times and fun and meaningful to family's lives. And to design your own Goo Goo Cluster and have it sent to you, you can go to the website That's

The story of the Goo Goo Cluster, a Southern tradition and many people around the country know it too here on Our American Stories. From BBC Radio 4, Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment, oh my God, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA. He says somebody's in the house and I screamed. Listen to Uncanny USA wherever you get your BBC podcasts, if you dare.

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