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Elmhurst theater to host family documentary director of 'Shelf Life: The Story of Lanzi Candy'

ELMHURST – The enthralling story by filmmaker Michael Lahey about his own Lanzi candy family and Chicago's candy family history will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in Elmhurst, followed by a Q&A session with the director.

"Shelf Life: The Story of Lanzi Candy" will be shown at York Theatre, 150 N. York St., according to the film's website.

Lahey is a documentary filmmaker, producer and editor based in Chicago. His first film, "Tugs Untied," won the Best of Arizona Award at the Arizona International Film Festival.
His next film, "Making Waves," won the Jury Prize for Best Feature Documentary at the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival and the Great Lakes Independent Film Festival.

He has edited programs for PBS, Discovery Channel, History Channel and National Geographic Channel. Lahey grew up in DeKalb, and holds a master's degree in film and literature from Northern Illinois University. In 2004, he founded his production company, Jump Cut Films.

Family business

For 60 years, Lanzi Candy Company was one of dozens of family-run confectioneries that, alongside candy giants Brach’s, Mars and Wrigley, earned Chicago the title of Candy Capital of the World.

Its founder, Elmo Lanzi, was a real-life Willie Wonka – a creator of unique candies made by machines that he invented. His most famous confection, Lanzi’s Cashew Nut Crunch, would achieve national cult status, while transforming him into a local celebrity. Like many first-generation immigrants, Lanzi had hoped to pass down the family business to his children. But this never happened, and 10 years after selling the company to outsiders, Lanzi Candy was gone.

Twenty-five years later, Lanzi Candy fanatic Jerry Ostermann sets out to resurrect the Cashew Nut Crunch. A problem is he has neither the recipe nor the machinery to make it. Bolstered by continued online interest in the candy, Ostermann solicits the help of Lanzi’s son Robert, and the remake begins.

Enter Elmo’s grandson, award-winning filmmaker Lahey, who follows Ostermann’s quest, while investigating three generations of turbulent family history. His search for why Lanzi sold to outsiders uncovers a wealth of family archives, leading him into the heart of both the Chicago candy industry and the Lanzi family itself. Lahey also explores how family businesses transformed Chicago into a city of sweets, and how their decline mirrors the city’s struggles to maintain its position as a candy mecca.

"Shelf Life: The Story of Lanzi Candy" uses the fascinating world of candy making as a jumping-off point to examine the deeper, universal issues of family legacies and succession, immigration and the American Dream.

Tickets cost $10. Tickets purchased online will be waiting at the York Theatre after 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at the "Shelf Life" will-call table in the lobby. Tickets also can be purchased at The Uptown Shop in downtown Elmhurst at 129 N. York St. Because the theater capacity is limited to 134 seats, early ticket purchase is recommended at For more information and to see the trailer, go to Details on the theater are at

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