With over 90 years of candy-making experience, business is still booming for Morkes Chocolates. The third-generation, family-owned business has specialized in handmade confections since 1920, making everything from scratch with all natural chocolate, pure butter and fresh roasted nuts. Its lineup of goodies ranges from classic English toffees and liqueur-infused truffles to custom-molded chocolates and decadent candy apples.
Founded by Bill Morkes in Chicago, the man behind the candy company started as a cookie salesman for Nabisco. To ensure he’d always be employed, he started his own business in his early 20s and opened a shop on the Southwest Side. In 1967, the shop relocated to its current home in Palatine, and a second store in Algonquin also carries Morkes confections.
Three generations later, the art of candy making has been passed down to Mr. Morkes’ granddaughter and current owner, Rhonda Morkes Dehn. The 53 year old oversees the candy-making process and isn’t slowing down.
“I’m not a fan of the word ‘retirement,’” she says, thinking about what she might do in the next 10 years. “My word is ‘choicement,’ and I believe people reach that at all different ages. It means having a level of money [whatever you deem appropriate] to be secure to make passionate choices, whether that’s working harder or taking it easy. My work with Morkes Chocolates is not done. I have a vision and am on the path to see it through. Then who knows where choicement will lead me!”
With 25 employees under her wing and order requests coming in from around the globe, Ms. Dehn is committed to not letting the business go stale. Her strategy? “Our business model is not mass producing a few items,” she explains. “We offer a lot of choice and customization. Years ago in the ’20s and ’30s, every neighborhood had a candy store, bakery, funeral home… all the necessities of life! Unfortunately, many candy stores were bought up by other more aggressive companies. We like to be the neighborhood candy store but with a modern flare. We offer a fun experience, with great tasting chocolates at fair prices. We are interactive and personal. We want to be that place that kids remember when they grow up and they smile.”
Ms. Dehn says one of Morkes Chocolates’ best-sellers is their version of the Turtle – the caramel, pecan and chocolate candy they call Pecan Puppets. “We also have a silk line, and our Mint Silk is very popular,” she adds. “We sell a lot of our toffees and brittles, and sea salt caramel is so popular right now. However, as the seasons change so do our best-sellers. In the fall we sell hundreds of thousands of caramel apples. At Christmas our assortments are the best sellers. Valentine’s Day is chocolate dipped strawberries. Easter is all about the molded bunnies. Mother’s Day is back to assortments. July 4th? Not much…it’s too hot. But it’s fun for all of us workers we get the day off!”
What’s more, Morkes Chocolates does more than simply produce and sell desserts. You can try your hand at the craft by booking a candy-making party! Or, you can try it at home with one of their DIY kits for making suckers, caramel apples and dipped pretzels. All we have to say is…yum!
Morkes Chocolates is located at 1890 North Rand Road in Palatine and 2755 West Algonquin Road in Algonquin.