Some may believe that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is just a novel and motion picture; that chocolate waterfalls and pools do not exist. However, there is a chocolate utopia located right here in Metro Detroit.
Instantly one’s body goes into a state of shock by walking into the 72,000 square foot building. The sweet, rich aroma of chocolate permeates the air and most likely also makes your mouth water. Sanders fine chocolatiers and expert candy makers work hard five days a week and eight to ten hours per day to get the best products out to their customers.
The company first started on June 17th, 1875, when founder Frederick Sanders Schmidt opened a candy store on Woodward Avenue at Gratiot in downtown Detroit. Sanders, who learned his confectionery trade at school in Germany, first started his business off small, but quickly added ice cream, baked goods and sweet cream sodas to the menu.
A year later, Fred Sanders invented a drink that made business skyrocket, the Ice Cream Soda. “The story goes that on one hot summer day, the store was packed with thirsty customers, and Sanders noticed that the sweet cream used for the sodas had gone sour. So he quickly substituted ice cream, and the new drink became the talk of the town,” said Tiffany Van Hemm, Sanders and Morley Candy Director of Public Relations. The Ice Cream Soda immediately helped business and made Sanders stand out from competitors even more.
Fred Sanders became one of the most distinguished businessmen in Detroit at the turn of the century. His stores were expanding, the company started a chain of stand-alone stores, and his products also trickled into shopping centers. In the 1960’s, there were 58 Sanders neighborhood candy shops in Metro Detroit and more than two hundred supermarkets carried the products throughout the Midwest.
Another reason that Sanders stands out as the leading purveyor of candies is because they were one of the first companies in Detroit to use electric motors in the factories. To make ice cream, he had a machine hooked up to an ice cube cruncher, however it posed as an immense disruption to production since the electric motor had a tendency to break down. The Edison Illuminating Company sent over a young mechanic to fix the motor. And you know who that was? Henry Ford. The electric motor allowed for faster production with less labor, a win-win for all.
In the late 1970’s the company began to decline and even went bankrupt. In June of 2002, the Morley Candy Company purchased Sanders. Thanks to the new ownership, the Sanders name is revived and making a comeback.
The same traditional recipes are still used today to remind those of the old-fashioned classic taste. Today in the candy kitchen, 60 hard working individuals produce 600 pieces of candy per minute. The dessert toppings still remain Sanders’ most popular item however, and are available in seven delicious flavors, including Butterscotch Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon Pear Carmel, and many more! Each day, 6,000 jars of topping are made and ready to sell to hungry consumers.
When one thinks of chocolate candies and hot fudge in Detroit they should think of Sanders Candy. For generations, Sanders has been bringing sweettooths together and in just one sampling one can experience the generations of hard work, experimentation, and finally sweet success, all in one bite. ~Danielle Turcotte, Regional Director