The Tacoma Sun


Mars in Tacoma

By Morgan Alexander


What does the Martin Luther King Housing Development Authority (MLKHDA), an affordable housing non-profit organization, have to do with one of the richest companies in the country? They both called the Lorenz Building at 1147 Tacoma Avenue South home.

Built in 1904, the Lorenz Building has played host to a number of companies over the years including a bakery, a floral shop, and a candy company that would eventually become the largest candy company in the world, Mars.

Frank Mars started the Mars Candy Factory, Inc in 1911 out of the family’s Tacoma home kitchen at 3312 North 27th Street. It was while Mars was in Tacoma – and possibly in the Lorenz Building – that the idea was developed for the company’s first blockbuster product, the Milky Way candy bar.



Mars ad in 1920s Stadium High School publication


Unfortunately, success was elusive in Tacoma and the Mars family skipped town to return to their native state, Minnesota, to the city of Minneapolis. It was here that they hit their stride and quickly outgrew their facility. Next, the company moved to Chicago to take advantage of its central location and rail access for distribution across the country where, for most of the past century, Mars has had a mostly friendly rivalry with Hershey’s.

Last month, Mars announced it had purchased the William Wrigley Jr. Company, the world’s largest chewing gum producer, for $23 billion cash deal. The two companies together are expected to generate annual sales in excess of $27 billion to unseat Cadbury Schweppes as the world’s largest confectionary manufacturer.


Maintaining a long lasting tradition, Mars remains a private family owned business with family members consistently ranked on the Forbes List of “The World’s Billionaires”

Meanwhile, the future of the Lorenz Building remains uncertain. MLKHDA wants out of the homeless shelter business and the city recently posted a “do not occupy” notice on the front door.

Take the Mars tour of Tacoma! While living in Tacoma, Frank & Ethel Mars called these addresses home: 952 South Sheridan Ave, 504 South Ainsworth Ave, and 3919 North 35th.

The city has a survey of historic buildings and is in the process of updating it. There’s an interesting story about the builder, Edward A. Lorenz:

Edward came from a pioneer Northwest family. He took profits from growing hops in Orting to buy up property in Tacoma. Finding the Tacoma market more lucrative than farming, he sold his 160 acre farm to the town of Orting who wanted to build a Soldiers’ home.

Edward liked to keep busy. In addition to developing commercial real estate in downtown Tacoma, Edward was also owner of a lumber mill, a steam boating company (part of the Mosquito Fleet), and a boat building company.

Related links –
Yahoo News: Mars Announces Merger Agreement with William Wrigley

Wikipedia: Mars, Incorporated

The News Tribune: Tacoma shelter’s future in doubt


published May 28th, 2008

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Erik B. // May 28, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Great focus on a great historical building that needs to be renovated in downtown Tacoma.

    Perhaps one day, we can drive around and list the number of abandoned and vacant buildings historical and otherwise downtown. Then with pictures of them, we can mark them off as they get renovated.

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