Brachs

Another Chicago original to celebrate National Candy Month! And it was the candy corn celebrated at Halloween that I enjoyed the best as a child. Brach’s candy corn is still the  best selling candy in the US today. I also remember the conversation hearts known as Sweethearts candy passed out at Valentines Day as well as Jelly Bird eggs at Easter. For my children, it was Jolly Ranchers that was my son’s favorite. The company was founded by Emil Brach in 1904 located at the corner of North Avenue and Town Street in Chicago.With a 1,000 investment, he named it “Brach’s Palace of Sweets” and employed his two sons to help.

Emil started with one kettle. Investing in additional equipment he was able to lower his production costs and sell his candy for 20 cents per pound. According to Wikipedia,by 1911, his production had reached 50,000 pounds per week and his first product was caramels. In 1913, Brachs developed the first candy factory and a second factory in 1921. In the late 1940’s an explosion happened killing many but Brachs continued on building a state of the art facility, becoming the largest candy manufacturer in the world.

One of the sons was 75 years old when he sold the company in 1966. Bertram Johnson bought the company in 1980 and moved its headquarters  but it started to decline and he bought Brochs Candy Company and merged the two which brought on new products. In 2003, Barry Callebaut AG purchased the new company. As part of the deal, Barry Callebaut agreed to assume $16 million in debt, fund restructuring efforts for 5 years and paid a symbolic $1 (one dollar) for the company.

In 2007, the company was sold to the Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company, which in turn merged with the Ferrara Pan Candy Company in 2012 to form the Ferrara Candy Company, based in Chicago, moving its headquarters here in 2019.

Tootsie Roll

As a child, I received a lot of Tootsie Rolls at Halloween, trick and treating. They were bought in bulk so parents could hand out several. Though I liked the Tootsie Pop the best. Per parents permission, I passed Tootsie Pops out to kindergarten students this year and was surprised how much they loved them. An old product continues to provide new flavor and excitement. Growing up in the 1950’s, Tootsie Roll sponsored children’s programs while many of us remember their commercials. Manufactured in New York in 1896 by Leo Hirshfield, the now Chicago-based company has grown to become one of the country’s largest candy companies. In 1931, Sweets Corp. which owned Tootsie Roll, extended the line with the Tootsie Pop, a Tootsie Roll center coated with a hard-candy shell on a lollipop stick. The company struggled during the Great Depression in New York. However, finally came to Chicago.

According to Dining Chicago, in 1966, Sweets Corp. changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries and opened the Chicago plant at 7401 S. Cicero Ave. that is now its headquarters. Melvin Gordon, CEO for several decades and who passed away in 2015 at 95 believed in hiring Chicagoan’s and kept the headquarters here for that reason. I knew several who worked for the company that offered great benefits. His wife worked by side with him, married for 65 years and was CEO.

The company also operates factories in four other states, plus Mexico and Canada. The manufacturer claims to produce more than 64 million Tootsie Rolls. Tootsie brands include: Tootsie Roll, Tootsie Pop, Charms Blow Pop, Mason Dots, Andes, Sugar Daddy, Charleston Chew, Dubble Bubble, Razzles, Caramel Apple Pop, Junior Mints, Cella’s Chocolate-Covered Cherries, and Nik-L-Nip.

Four more Chicago land candy shops

Windy City Sweets has specialized in candy and handmade chocolates since 1983. Located on Broadway in Chicago, some of their bestsellers are their handmade chocolate fudge and their elegant chocolate truffles sold in a beautiful box. Windy City Sweets has over 1,200 different products. They were also named 2017 Best Candy Store by Chicago Magazine and one of the Cutest Ice Cream Shops in the USA by Cosmopolitan Magazine. They have a full menu of quality ice cream as well.

Candyality is described as chewy, colorful, and crunchy, just a few of the words that describe their candy creations. Candyality carries thousands of bulk items and sweet treats including gummies, sours, taffy, and more. Need M & M’s in 21 colors? They have it. They carry all the nostalgic brands. Chicago entrepreneur, born and raised in the city, Terese McDonald love the penny candy memories of her childhood. A former sales and training executive, she opened Candyality in 2007. In Food Network magazine, they were voted best candy shop in in Illinois. There are two stores one located on Southport Ave and the other on Clark St.

Galena’s Kandy Kitchen was established in 1974 when George Paxton left Chicago and the overwhelming business of computers to come to Galena, Illinois, and open his confectionery. His father William (Bill) Paxton helped initiate 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 delicious hand-molded chocolate bars with potato chips as well as great jelly beans that can be purchased online.

Andersons Candy Shop in Richmond 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. He ran his business out of his front porch and living room selling candy 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 purchase allowed him to sell  chocolates year round. Some of their bestsellers are the buttercream and handmade caramel.

The best candy shops began in Chicago

For me, my weakness has been a toss up between ice cream and homemade candy. Celebrating National Candy month, the following shops described in the article began in Chicago and still exist today. Another article will explore suburban favorites.

Margie’s Candies story begins in 1921 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 fudge and Kosher dark chocolate. Many love the variety of homemade ice cream as well. Margie’s original location is still open at Western Avenue.

Fannie May  continues to provide the best in new gourmet chocolate creations as well as traditional favorites.The first Fannie May retail store was opened by H. Teller Archibald in 1920 at 11 N. LaSalle St. in Chicago. Fannie May is also a great way to bring profits to your fundraiser and offer gifts to your business clients. Fannie May is available for pick up by calling any Fannie May store, which you can check out here to find a location near you!

Another charming shop decorated with original Tiffany lamps, an old-fashioned Coke machine and other memorabilia bought by the family is located on Montrose Avenue. Amy’s Candy Bar is 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. 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 hand-crafted confections that include her signature sea salt caramel. You can also order your favorites online.

Katherine Anne Confections promotes cocktail truffle” month in their kitchen, and they thought a banana daiquiri truffle would be a great choice for the month. Extra ripe bananas, white rum, and milk/semisweet chocolate with a touch of sea salt is part of the creation. At the age of 10, 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. In 2012, Katherine opened her cafe in the Logan Square neighborhood on Armitage and she also offers excellent coffee drinks.

Cunis Candies originally opened its doors in 1933 on 79th street by George Askounis. Now, Kathy Biesiada owns the store in South Holland which has been a south side favorite since 1971 and still family owned. Cunis is especially known for their ice cream as well. Some delights include the Turtle Sundae and Peach Ice Cream topped with fresh peaches, the latter available in June. They take pride in their homemade chocolates that include freshly dipped turtles, chocolate strawberry’s, chocolate covered orange peels and in the fall, the best caramel apples;  which are first dipped in caramel, rolled in pecans, then drizzled with around a quarter pound of milk or dark chocolate.

Cupid Candies,another family owned business was founded by Paul Stefanos in 1936 has been producing quality chocolate and 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 grew. They continue to manufacture chocolate for some of the finest candy shops in Chicago that include Crate and Barrel. Currently, three locations are available in Chicago, Oaklawn and Orland Park that offer a soda fountain service.

 

It was Fannie May for the holidays, still is!

The first Fannie May shop was opened in Chicago on LaSalle Street in 1920. After World War II, Fannie May was known for the Pixie candy but it was the mint melt-away created in 1963 that I wanted as a child. That every child, growing up at that time, wanted too. In fact, every child growing up.. even my own children decades later in the 1990’s. When I was a child, my Aunt would take me to her favorite Fannie May store on Chicago’s south side and help me select presents for family, friends and always my teachers. She let me have a special bag to select chocolates for me to take home. If during the holidays, it would be a foil covered Santa or Easter bunny along with other chocolate favorites.

Growing up, as a Mom in Downers Grove, I would take my two children to the Fannie May store on Ogden Avenue; following the same tradition as my Aunt taught me. The store is still open today to shop for your chocolate holiday favorites.

In 2003, Fannie May joined forces with Harry London Confections. In 2015, Fannie May partnered with the Chicago Cubs and launched the Chicago Cubs Collection. Today, Fannie May offers tasting events that are implemented in every store. These events showcase a specific flavor or assortment to better familiarize customers with products. Fannie May candy is great way to execute chocolate fundraisers.

Fannie May favorites can still be purchased:

Gingerbread Pixies (1 lb., $29.99) A cult favorite now includes smooth gingerbread flavored caramel and crunchy pecans coated in Fannie May milk chocolate, topped with chocolate sprinkles for extra holiday cheer this gifting season.

Holiday Pretzels (12pc, $19.99) An irresistible mix of sweet and salty, crunchy & creamy – his collection includes four milk chocolate covered pretzels, four dark chocolate covered pretzels, and four pretzels covered in white confection decorated with red and green drizzle – the perfect treat for your holiday table.

Holiday Mint Meltaways (1lb, $29.99) Creamy mint chocolate centers coated in sweet white confection & covered with just the right amount of red and green sugar crystals, making them the must-have table item for every holiday hostess.

Christmas Crew 7 oz. Hollow figures ($11.99 each) The delightful holiday characters, Santa, reindeer and elf are here to delight all as the perfect stocking stuffer for kids this holiday season!

Colonial (1lb, $24.99) Fannie May’s most popular assortment features a delectable selection of signature tastes – from our famous Pixies ® and Trinidads ® to our buttercreams, toffees and chocolate covered fruits.  A great gift for the chocolate lover or Chicago local.

Cashews & Assorted Nuts Tins (1 lb, $29.99 each) You can enjoy lightly salted Cashews or the perfect combination of pecans, almonds, and cashews in the elegant gift tin – perfect to have out as a snack around your holiday table.

Chicago’s Navy Pier

My childhood memories of Navy Pier were just that, a pier that was cold, dark and gloomy. A pier that was falling apart, in transition, and far from the dazzle we have today. In fact, the last of the World War II generation remembers it as a training ground to fight. Over the decades, Navy Pier has demonstrated a variety of purpose.

Navy Pier was designed as a municipal pier in 1916 and host to a prison for draft dodgers during World War I. It was named Navy Pier in 1927 as a tribute to navy veterans who served in the first World War. In World War II, the pier was used a center to train pilots and according to Navy Pier’s current website, over 200 planes can still be found at the bottom of Lake Michigan. During these training years, tens of thousands of boys that were drafted used the facility and could also exercise in a huge gym, cafeteria and theater for entertainment.

After the war in 1946, Navy Pier hosted students from the University of Illinois for a two year program though they did have to finish their four year degree at the home campus in Champaign/Urbana. Finally to complete a degree at one campus, Chicago’s Circle Campus ( an new annex of the University of Illinois) was born in 1965. At that time, Navy Pier needed a new face lift.

Since the 20th Century, Navy Pier has been transformed into acres of parks, fine dining, fabulous cruises, a ferris wheel that holds 300 people, and much more. As a result of much to do at the Pier and year round events, Navy Pier proudly holds the number one tourist attraction position in the Midwest. Cruises on the Odyssey, Spirit of Chicago and Mystic Blue offer special holiday festivities and great ideas to spend New Years Eve with your loved ones.

Besides taking a cruise, some of the restaurants can provide a great eating experience and waterfront views. Some of the favorites are Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Big City Chicken, Frankie’s Pizza, and Tiny Tavern where you can stop for a cocktail.

Presently, the Fifth Third Bank is sponsoring Winter Wonderfest at the pier Friday, November 30, 2018 – Sunday, January 6, 2019. featuring 170,000 square feet of carnival rides, giant slides, holiday-themed activities, and Indoor Ice Skating Rink, and more.

Celebrate your Chicago New Year’s Eve. Book your tickets to the 7th Annual Chicago Resolution Gala. The Resolution Gala is the top Chicago New Year’s Eve party going down this year. Every year up to 3,000 guests gather inside of the Grand Ballroom to ring in their New Year. Celebrate your night with food, drinks, a top live DJ, and the perfect intro to 2018 in Chicago!

 

Sno-caps, Raisinets or Junior Mints?

A second grader approached me one day and was telling me about her trip to the movie theater. She wasn’t a big popcorn eater but how she loved Sno-caps candy. When I was exactly her age decades ago, it was Sno-caps for me instead of popcorn. A lot cheaper too! Prices have jumped over 600 percent to buy candy at the movies; a dollar, however, would do it during my time. My best friend always chose Raisinets. If all else failed, Junior Mints was the final choice.

We also talked about how we never had that candy at any other time but at the movies. These were the movie candy choices, I suppose.

So, of course, I went to the movies with my adult daughter a week later and had to try out Sno-caps. Unfortunately, the sprinkles got between my teeth and I did not experience the same nonpareil satisfaction as before. My teeth are certainly not the same either. Though, I did save the box and shared with the second grader that I truly enjoyed my trip to the movies.

Sno -Caps have been around a long time. The candy was introduced in the late 1920s by the Blumenthal Chocolate Company. Ward Foods acquired Blumenthal in 1969. Terson Company bought the product and Nestle finally acquired the candy in 1984. Sno-caps are bite sized Nestles chocolate, covered with white sprinkles.

Chocolate-covered raisins are still popular and Raisinets are currently made by Nestlé.  They come in all sorts of packages, sold around the world and come in special movie theater boxes today. The raisins are from California with fruit antioxidants and thirty percent less fat. An important choice for splurging at the movies!

Junior Mints are a candy brand consisting of small rounds of mint filling inside a dark chocolate coating. The product is currently produced by Tootsie Roll Industries.  The product was launched in 1949 and named after a series of articles that was produced into a Broadway play, Junior Miss. However, the play had closed six years before the candy was introduced. In 1945, the play was adapted to a film and radio show. Over 15 million Junior Mints are produced daily in large theater boxes.

I am going to the movies today and I have a taste for popcorn! Today, cinemas have moved beyond the original popcorn, candy choices and sell burgers, quesadillas, and pizzas. Even beer and wine is an option.  Some classic films are paired with specific fine wines…..hmmm.

Maybe, I will just try some Junior Mints.

Halloween 1950/60’s and today

By Caryl Clem:

During the late 1950’s, Halloween was big. I vividly recall the planning for a homemade costume started in the summer-to find material and finalize the creative design embellishments. My childhood ritual was to meet with 4-5 neighbor friends, then walk to the agreed 7 to 8 houses of  nearby neighbors. Small town congeniality, the Moms met beforehand to divided food favorites of popcorn balls,  peanut-butter cookies, oatmeal/raisin cookies, rich chocolate cake, a bag of peanuts, fruit. My decorated shopping bag overflowed with homemade delicacies.

Next was a neighbor’s  Halloween Party  with a blindfolded spooky hunt including grabbing peeled grapes that felt like eyeballs, feeling sharp bony pieces while digging for hidden prizes in a mysterious container. Later in the evening, The Lion’s Club or American Legion had a costume contest and surprise goody bag to take home.  By high school age, we were no longer trick or treating. We were at work or helping answer the door for the younger generation.

In 1951, the famous cartoon figure, “Peanuts” is seen “trick or treating” down his street. Disney follows suit in 1952 showing a cartoon of Donald Duck taking his nephews, Huey, Dewie, and Louie out. The cartoon initiates the now popular term in its title, “Trick or Treat “.  Commercial products replace homemade goods , department stores produced mass quantities of super hero costumes.  Home and family based magazines run features on decorating, food recipes, annual  popular costume choice, and games for Halloween.

Old rituals of carving hollowed out gourds, and  turnips to make lanterns warding off evil spirits changed to using  pumpkins by immigrants arriving in America. Hunting for the perfect pumpkin remain a family favorite.  The legend of Stingy Jack, rejected by God and the Devil, explains why Jack is forced to roam through Halloween Night with a lantern. The popular term,  Jack  O’Lantern, for the lit pumpkins guarding doorsteps. Since the 1960’s, the  lure of graveyards, ghosts and spooky illusions inspire outdoor decorating as towns sponsor haunted houses.

Popcorn balls first recipe appeared in 1861 and taffy apples discovered in 1904 now arrive in the home bought at stores. Prepackaged goods are preferred after incidents of tampering were reported. The most famous in 2000 when a Snickers bar had needles In spite of the small incident rate, pressure for safety has favored tightly packaged goods too small to hide objects inside with towns banning homemade products.

Now popular, it is the trunk and treat party where invited friends come to share treats together at a designated parking lot with their car trunks decorated and share treats instead of going door to door, trick or treating. Not only has it been a great social experience for small children in the community, schools and clubs are organizing trunk or treat parties along with assigning a theme.

Halloween has become the second biggest holiday celebrated in America! Last year an estimated 6 billion dollars was spent by Halloween fans.

Have a very Happy Halloween!