The best of Chicago land’s homemade candy

For me, my weakness has been a toss up between ice cream and homemade candy. My vintage trips to Marshall Fields always called for a box of Frango mints and some of Chicago lands favorite home made candy shops offer those delectable mints today.

As a last minute stocking stuffer, my daughter runs to the grocery store to add a couple of bags of Lindt’s Lindor truffles which has been around since 1845.  I can eat one bag in a few minutes. For many, the following shops have been favorites for decades, a pride of the best Chicago businesses and some also offer home-made ice cream.

Margie’s Candies story begins in 1921 when  George Poulos opened an ice cream parlor on the North Side. The shop became known as Margie’s Candies in 1933, when Poulos’ son George Peter Poulos married Margie Michaels. Still family owned, Margie’s is known for their delicious fudge, Kosher dark chocolate wrapped in handmade boxes. Many ice cream connoisseurs love the varieties of homemade ice cream flavors as well. Margie’s original location is still open at Western Avenue. The only good complaint I have heard about Margie’s is that their lines can be long at times and they do have a second location on Montrose Avenue.

Amy’s Candy Bar located in Lincoln Square was opened in 2011 originally inspired by Amy’s grandmother, Geraldine. As a child, Amy spent hours watching and helping her grandmother bake but decided to forge a career with a degree in psychology and marketing. She worked in corporate America in later years.  But her initial passion for candy told her to follow her heart. In 2006, she decided to leave her present position and enroll in the French Pastry School in Chicago. Amy’s shop offers some of the best, award winning, hand-crafted confections that include her signature sea salt caramel. You can also order your favorites online.

Katherine Anne Confections began her candy adventure at the age of 10, when Katherine would use cream from her family’s Jersey cows to create soft, old-fashioned caramels on their farm in Wisconsin. “Katherine’s Karamels” were sold at her Dad’s office and quickly became a local favorite. The amazing confections were launched in 2006; everyone ordering her famous chocolate for the holidays. Finally, in 2012, Katherine opened her cafe in the Logan Square neighborhood on Armitage and she also offers excellent coffee drinks to compliment her sweets. They have a great online store and host corporate events.

Galena’s Kandy Kitchen was established in 1974 when George Paxton left Chicago and the overwhelming business of computers that he worked to come to Galena, Illinois, and open his confectionery. His father William (Bill) Paxton helped to create Chuckles candy in the 1930’s and continued on inspiring his son until he retired from the candy business at the age of 98. They are known locally for their “Pecan Georgies” named after George. George passed away from cancer in 2011.  Galena’s Kandy Kitchen is known for its awesome hand-molded chocolate bars with potato chips as well as excellent jelly beans that can be purchased online.

Andersons Candy Shop in Richmond IL offers an interesting history with Arthur Anderson beginning a candy shop in 1919 in Chicago and then moved his family to Richmond in 1926, purchasing a home there. He ran his business out of his front porch and living room selling candy during months that were not hot and ice cream in the summer. In 1933, his business took on new meaning after Grandpa and his family visited the Chicago World’s Fair. He came home with the first air conditioner in McHenry County, of course, this ingenious purchase allowed him to sell  chocolates year round. Some of their bestsellers are the delectable buttercream, handmade caramel and something new, smore’s bars!

Old Fashioned Candies began its journey in Chicago in 1969 and moved to Berwyn in 1971. Owned by George and Theresa Brunslik, a fire almost wiped them out but the family business is still going strong with a second store in Indian head Park. Both stores offer some great ideas for celebrating events with hand made chocolate party trays as well as Cubs and Socks Suckers. But Old Fashioned Candies truly specializes in great party favors for a new baby, graduation or wedding. Customers rave about the best chocolate covered strawberries that are available daily. Another favorite are frozen chocolate covered bananas and they ship throughout the US.

Cunis Candies originally opened its doors in 1933 on 79th street by George Askounis. The store was between the streets of Kingston and Colfax; a neighborhood I grew up and my family visited their shop many times. Now, Kathy Biesiada owns the store in South Holland which has been a south suburban favorite since 1971 and still family owned. Again, a shop that followed me or I followed them when I went to high school at Thornridge in Dolton. Cunis is also known for their amazing ice cream. Some delights include the Turtle Sundae and Peach Ice Cream topped with fresh peaches, the latter available in the summer months. They take pride in their homemade chocolates that include freshly dipped turtles,  chocolate covered orange peels and in the fall, the best caramel apples.

Gayety offers beautifully boxed assortments of homemade chocolates that include Muddles Pecan Caramels, Chocolate Almond Clusters and Butter Toffee. Gayety also serves ice cream and has shops in Lansing IL and Schereville, Indiana. James Papageorge came to America and purchased his ice cream shop Gayety’s,  located on Commercial Avenue next to The Gayety Movie Theater in South Chicago in 1936. He worked seven days a week;  never giving up the passion that meant so much to him. Lee started his career at the Gayety as a responsible and an active 12 year old eager to follow in his uncle’s footstep, then his son Jim became in charge in 2003 and the shop is still family owned.

Cupid Candies is another family owned business, founded by Paul Stefanos in 1936 and has been producing quality chocolates; serving Chicago land residents in their own retail stores for the past 68 years. The first store was at 79th and Ashland, where only fudge, toffee, and popcorn were sold. By 1940 Paul Stefanos, and his wife Pauline, opened another store at 3207 W. 63 rd Street, along with a small manufacturing facility, where the chocolate line really advanced. They continue to manufacture chocolate for some of the finest candy shops in Chicago offering a wonderful melt-away mint. Currently, three locations are available in Chicago, Oaklawn and Orland Park that offer a soda fountain service.

What Baby Boomers didn’t know

Those over 60 were taught that we would retire with a substantial savings from a company we had worked for all of our adult lives.

Unfortunately, our parents lied to us.

They did not teach us how to jump from one job to the next and still be able to hobble to the workplace at the tender age of 72.

They didn’t teach us about the healthcare market; astronomical costs to maintain our health. They went from insurance on the job that the company paid for, after decades of working for the same company and retired directly into Medicare.

They did not teach us that we would be competing with youth of all ages and that are experience and wisdom didn’t mean quite the same as it did for them in the workplace

They also did not tell us that people would be promoted whether they were qualified or not.

They taught us about establishing college funds for our own children but forgot to tell us how much we needed to send our kids to school.

They did not tell us that our tri-level home or two-story condo would cause havoc on the kneecaps and that a steady banister on stairs would actually be useful.

They did not teach us to celebrate our golden anniversaries and birthdays with a designated driver. In fact, they left out the part that one alcoholic beverage would knock us out and caffeine would keep us up all night.

They did not teach us organization tips like putting our keys in the same spot every day so we didn’t have to rely on failing memory to find them.

They did not show us the proper way to go down a playground slide with our grandkids.

Unfortunately, in their timeline, there was no way to teach us about internet violence, terrorism,  social media political back-stabbing, online buying subject to constant security checks and threats.

We were taught to never speak in public about politics or religion.

We were taught decorum and respect.

We were taught to trust.

They didn’t tell us that we would hate crowds, loud music, traffic jams and driving in bad weather. They didn’t let us know that we would be fearful driving in blizzards and that is why their older counterparts moved to warmer climates. Now we know!

They didn’t tell us that we would be screaming out 1973 after a song recorded 40 years ago had been played. Nor did they admit that 40 years ago would seem like yesterday.

They didn’t tell us about constant maintenance and more maintenance of the mind, body and spirit. And they didn’t tell us about the exhaustion that came with all that constant maintenance as well as a waistline that would continue to bloom regardless of what we did to decrease it.

Finally, they did not teach us how we should take care of them. They never wanted to go there and neither did we.

What We Do Have

When I take the time to look back and remember, my aunt used to always tell me that it was hell to get old. I was just too ignorant to listen. Why should we, old age was incomprehensible and would never happen to us. Surprise!

They didn’t say surprise when we started to falter or that, ultimately, old age would sneak up on us and be filled with all sorts of surprises.

It all depended on how you looked at it.

For me, however, they did give me one quality of life that is timeless and I intend to keep regardless of the aging factor and that is a sense of humor!

Hopefully, the rest of you can laugh at yourselves as the gifts of aging, keep on giving. 

And the love we shared in our youth for many is stronger in memory than ever before.

Actually, those are the healthiest resources we have!