Algonquin candy shop has rich history, and human-shaped heart to go with it
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org @DanaheyECN February 13, 2014 7:56PM
Updated: February 14, 2014 2:37AM
ALGONQUIN — If you want to get your sweetie an actual heart-shaped Valentine, Morkes (pronounced, aptly enough, more-kiss) Chocolates in Algonquin is the place to head.
The candy at Morkes not only comes with homemade history but also includes an anatomically correct-looking chocolate human heart among its offerings.
According to shop owner Claudia Kendzior of Crystal Lake, the ticker is an old mold — and one of hundreds of shapes from which customers can choose to make specialty orders.
“We have brains, hands and ears. We did the ears — along with sunflowers — for a wedding that had a van Gogh theme,” Kendzior said.
The shop also has sold a chocolate buffalo, a model Jeep, and even a replica engagement ring. A young man gave his fiancee the latter before popping the big question and handing over the real jewelry, Kendzior said.
As for the heart, “it’s mostly a doctor thing,” Kendzior said, as people usually give it to cardiologists and not to a love interest.
The real-looking heart — or even the heart shape more associated with cards and candy — isn’t the shop’s biggest seller this time of year.
“Those would be chocolate-covered strawberries, hand-dipped here in the store, which have been increasingly popular for the last seven years or so,” Kendzior said.
Women tend to buy earlier and, if married, for their husbands and children, Kendzior said, while husbands and boyfriends tend to wait until the last moment and usually just buy for their significant others.
Of course, Valentine’s Day is in the top three for the store’s sales, right up there with Christmas and Easter. For Halloween, Morkes does well with caramel apples.
As for how Kendzior got into owning a confectionery, she was at a school event for one her children almost 10 years ago, where Sandi Morkes had brought some of the family-owned company’s chocolate. Kendzior recognized the box, as her parents and grandparents had lived in a Chicago neighborhood near the original candy shop, and struck up a conversation.
The two wound up talking, and Kendzior took a “mom’s job” at the Morkes location in Palatine. When the shop opened in Algonquin in 2007, Kendzior went to work as manager, and three years ago she became owner of the 2755 Algonquin Road location.
According to the Morkes website, in 1930, William Morkes Sr. left his sales position with Nabisco to start his company at 26th Street and Trumbull in Chicago, and the family lived above the shop.
The business moved to Palatine in 1967; and in 1988, Morkes’ granddaughter Rhonda Morkes Dehn took over the operation and opened the Algonquin location in 2007.
Morkes makes its chocolate at a factory in Lake Zurich (which seems fitting, with the Swiss-named town and that nation’s fabled chocolate).
Along with selling candy, the shop offers parties and chocolate- and candy-making classes.
And a side benefit of running such a business is the sweet stories that Kendzior said she and her staff hear from customers.
Those would include a recent call placed to a customer reminding him to order for Valentine’s Day. He was in an on-again, off-again relationship and ultimately wound up not ordering chocolate-covered strawberries as he had done before.
“He was through with her,” Kendzior said with a laugh.
Recently, an elderly German woman named Heddy brought a bouquet of flowers to the shop to show her appreciation.
At Christmas time, Heddy had come into Morkes and wound up sharing the story of how, for the last 10 years, she has been the sole caretaker of her husband, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Moved by the tale, Kendzior gave the elderly woman some truffles and other treats. The customers in line were equally touched.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Kendzior said.
Now that’s heart.
For more information or to place an order, people can visit www.morkesalgonquin.com or phone 847-458-8585.