April 7, 2013 | last updated April 7, 2013 10:17 pm

Sheila Shechtman: CEO, Hebert Candies, Shrewsbury

Matt Volpini

VIEW: Sheila Shechtman, Hebert Candies

Sheila Shechtman, who has operated a gourmet food and gift basket company in the Hartford, Conn., area since the early 1990s, is the new face of Hebert Candies, which was founded more than 90 years ago.

Last year, her company, American Gourmet Group, acquired the Hebert business, which is headquartered in a leased 65,000-square-foot Tudor stone mansion on Route 20 in Shrewsbury.

Soon, Shechtman's gift basket operations and management team will be headquartered there too.

In May, she will bring about 18 new employees to town, a number that will spike during the holiday season.

"You can call it the rebirth of Hebert, if you'd like to, because that's really what it is," Shechtman said.

Rebuilding A Brand

The Hebert family, which operated the business and its chain of stores throughout Central Massachusetts, sold the business in 2003.

Other stores that used to be under the Hebert brand have been renamed over the past decade, such as Colonial Candies in Bolton. The candy mansion in Shrewsbury is now the sole Hebert's location, though Shechtman hopes to see the business grow to other sites.

Shechtman said she was approached about a year ago by someone associated with Hebert who said it needed a boost to regain its former stature in the region. Under the Hebert family's ownership, the company had locations in Shrewsbury, Bolton, Sturbridge and Sterling. The latter stores are now operating under different names under the management of various Hebert family members.

"What juiced me about this whole thing was to grow Hebert to what it was many years ago and then beyond," Shechtman said.

Upstairs offices will be renovated this spring to make way for the management team that will move in from Hartford.

Polito Development Corp. of Shrewsbury bought the mansion in 2006 for $3.2 million at a foreclosure auction.

Karyn Polito, a principal with the firm and a former six-term Republican state representative, called Shechtman and her husband Richard, an attorney who is a principal in the venture, "extremely hardworking" and believes merging the gifting and candy operations is smart.

"I believe they have found a formula with the gifting enterprise to make it function successfully in this economy," Polito said. "I think it's a perfect fit."

Finding Efficiencies And Common Ground

Shechtman said merging the companies will allow her to combine some distribution channels, design importing capabilities and leverage her 33 years of experience in wholesale and retail gifting.

Shechtman's Gifted Expressions, which also falls under the American Gourmet umbrella, wholesales food and gift packages to promotional products and business gift distributors. The company also brands and packages gift products, such as gift baskets, for major clients like Neiman Marcus.

Hebert recently launched a new website. And Shechtman is planning to add a café and lunchtime menu at the candy mansion, as well as other renovations to spruce up the retail store.

She sees further opportunities for private-label contracts with retailers as well as in the corporate gifting market.

"It was very exciting to take our distribution channels, our design importing capabilities, our 33 years understanding the gifting world both wholesale and retail to Hebert, which was this little candy mansion in Shrewsbury," she said. n

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Q&A With Sheila Shechtman Of American Gourmet Group, Hebert Candies

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