Bankhead Chocolates is a Bowling Green tradition, known by many, even those from out of the area, as a must-stop shop. The candy company has been in business since the 1900s and is currently entering ownership with the third generation of one family’s history, as Mike and April Foster take the helm.
Bankheads was founded in 1919 by Thomas Jefferson Bankhead, who opened the business as a restaurant with candy as a side line. Ultimately, the candy became a bigger enterprise than the restaurant, shaping the business to the chocolate haven as it’s known today.
“Mr. Bankhead and his wife Blanch (Karr) lost their only son in a car accident in 1948,” explained new owner April Foster, whose family has owned the business since the late ‘80s. “The Bankheads were always known for their kindness in the community especially with local students providing them with jobs.”
The Bankhead franchise was sold to Ayers Oil Company in 1977. Mary “Mog” Orf worked for Jim Hannaford, a previous owner, and stayed on with Bankheads as manager for 12 years.
In 1989, Mog and her husband Roland “Duke” purchased the company. Five years later the Orf’s retired, allowing their daughter, Laura, and husband David Portwood to buy the business from them.
On April 1 of this year, the Portwood’s retired from full time ownership and their daughter, April, and her husband Michael Foster purchased Bankheads from them.
“It has been in our family 25 years,” April Foster, the current owner, explained.
To many, working in a business whose main product is chocolate sounds like heaven. The Fosters tend to agree, adding the job has produced other perks, as well.