The Revitalization of the Old Wilbur Factory
If you’ve been in south-central Pennsylvania long enough, you know that the name Wilbur Chocolate is synonymous with Lititz. As “America’s coolest small town,” Lititz thrives on its vibrant downtown full of unique shops, restaurants, and buildings like the former Wilbur Chocolate Co. factory to give the town its charm. Fresh changes are happening in Lititz, the most recent being the purchase and revitalization of the former Wilbur Chocolate factory into “The Wilbur Lititz” hotel.
Because the factory used to be under the Wilbur Chocolate business, the Wilbur Chocolate Store has received a lot of questions around the recent renovations: When is the hotel opening? Who owns Wilbur Chocolate? Does Wilbur Chocolate own the hotel? Who is building the hotel?
The Wilbur Chocolate Store team is happy and excited about the new hotel and that such a significant piece of Lititz history is being restored and repurposed to better the town. With that said, we wanted to take the time to clear up a few of these questions and clarify our relationship to The Wilbur Lititz hotel.
A Piece of History: The Old Wilbur Factory
To better understand the origin of these questions and to answer them, first we need to take a quick trip down memory lane and look at the history of the Wilbur Chocolate factory.
For over 135 years, Wilbur Chocolate has been delivering high-quality chocolate and confectionery products to the candy-loving community. That all started with Mr. Henry Oscar Wilbur (who lived in Philadelphia) and the Kendig Chocolate Company, which was formed and located in Lititz, Pa. in 1900. Two years later, Kendig became Ideal Chocolate Company and soon after, built the iconic chocolate factory at 48. N. Broad St. next to the Reading and Columbia railroad station.
During this time, Henry Wilbur and his family were continuing to produce chocolate in Philadelphia, including the creation of the Wilbur Bud in 1894. With an extensive history of company mergers and building purchases, it was finally in 1930 when Wilbur was officially relocated to Lititz. It was in 1958 that the corporate company name was officially changed to the Wilbur Chocolate Company.
Between 1968 and 1992, the company had been bought and sold a total of 5 times but continued to operate as the Wilbur Chocolate Company. Then, in 1992, Cargill, Inc. purchased the company to be the hub for its North American chocolate production business. The factory remained in operation until 2016. Production from Broad Street was moved to other Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate plants in Lititz, Mount Joy, Hazleton, and Milwaukee.
New Developments: What’s Happening to the former Wilbur Factory
After the plant closed, the historical building remained up for bid until the Oak Tree Development Group purchased the property from Cargill and announced the redevelopment of the old factory. When it’s finished, the 11-acre property will contain five new buildings that include a boutique hotel, loft-style apartments, luxury apartments, senior living, a sit-down bistro, and specialty market shops.
The first phase of the project contains a food hall with six vendors and is called Market at The Wilbur, which opened doors on Aug. 29, 2019. The vendors that participated in the opening and currently reside there are Zig’s Bakery, Waltz Vineyard, Rooster Street Butcher and Deli, Oola Bowls, Whiff Roasters, and Presto Scratch Pasteria. A few days after the opening of the Market at The Wilbur, the Blackworth Live Fire Grill, a 150-seat restaurant, is also open for business.
According to Oak Tree, the 74-room boutique hotel—The Wilbur Lititz, Tapestry Collection by Hilton—will greet guests when opening in the near future.. The 25 condominiums that are part of the building revitalization, have already been sold and will be completed during the fall before phase two of the project beings. The second phase will include 34 independent-living apartments for seniors, as well as 170 apartments that will be available to the general public.
The Wilbur Chocolate Store, which is right across the street from the new hotel, is still owned by Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. The Store will continue providing the Lititz area community and its visitors a place to taste and buy distinctive premium chocolate products and gifts, as well as provide a glimpse into the rich history of the chocolate and confectionery industry. So, while the name of the new revitalized hotel has “Wilbur” in its title to preserve the history of the building, it is exclusively owned and operated by Hilton and Oak Tree.
Revitalization: Mixing Together the Old and the New
Revitalization is all about finding a happy medium between the old and the new. It’s about building relationships with local businesses and their surrounding communities, giving residents an opportunity to thrive in smaller towns and cities. It’s no secret that Lancaster is one of Pennsylvania’s leading cities when it comes to these efforts, and luckily, nearby towns like Lititz have benefited greatly from that.
Being close to larger cities like Philadelphia, the city of Lancaster is able to accommodate urban-living without all of the typical sacrifices. Even more, small towns like Lititz benefit by being able to retain that small-town charm in rural Lancaster County, and yet still be close enough to the city for jobs.
The quaintness and rich history of Lititz is what draws in visitors from near and far, and the Wilbur Chocolate Store is happy to continue to be a part of this growing town. The old Wilbur factory will always be connected to Wilbur Chocolate and Lititz history, and we’re happy that the new owners are cherishing the importance of the buildings’ sweet roots. Whether you’re a Lititz resident, a new visitor, or even a returning visitor, make sure you stop into our store for a rich taste of our history—and our chocolate!
The Wilbur Chocolate Store is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Sundays. You can enjoy a free sample of our Wilbur Buds when you come in, as well as a large selection of our Wilbur items and confections. Visit our website for more details on our products, or give us a call at (888) 2WILBUR for more information. Also, visit and like our Facebook page for special event and product info!