Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A bittersweet Christmas story

EDITOR'S NOTE: From time to time we hand deliver chocolate for our customers. Dad recently rushed from his busy schedule at the cooking room over to a local Cub Scout meeting to deliver a very special box of candy as a Christmas surprise. My sister Susanne gives a brief recap below. Merry Christmas.

About a week ago Joe Kalisek, a Ranger in the U.S. Army, contacted us at Anderson's via email.

He is stationed in Afghanistan and asked if we would deliver a box of chocolates to his wife at a local Cub Scout pack meeting since he could not do it himself.

Although Joe previously thought that he would be able to come home for Christmas, he recently learned that he will not be coming home until spring.

To help his wife Ivy cope, he wanted us to surprise her with a personally delivered present and message from him.

Leif, my dad, just so happens to have three sons in the same Cub Scout pack as Ranger Joe so, of course, he said yes! (And definitely would have even if his sons had not been at the same meeting.)

It was a very emotional experience for all of us -- Dad gets teary eyed while presenting the candy to Ivy.

And, with Joe's permission, we video taped the moment to share.

Here's a video clip of dad presenting Ivy, with her gift.

Ivy, we are so sorry that you have to be away from your husband this Christmas.

We hope those chocolates remind you how much you are loved.

And Ranger Joe, we thank you for your service and wish you a safe and speedy return home!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Understanding the real magic

EDITORS NOTE: Today's entry is from my sister Susanne Anderson (pictured at right). She writes about transitioning into a fulltime role at Anderson's Candy Shop and how the move has given her a new perspective on the magic that happens inside 10301 Main Street. I think that the second half of this entry really describes what it feels like when you grow up into a family business.

I’m going to be honest with everyone right now, and it might hurt a little: growing up in a chocolate factory is nothing like what you saw in that Willy Wonka movie.

Ok, ok, it sort of is, but not in the way you might think. There are no chocolate rivers, no psychedelic boat rides and no little people that produce the chocolate – though sometimes, it’s true, we do break out in song.

No, these things don’t exist, but growing up here, it did feel like magic.

Just walking through the cooking room (aptly named, for this is where all of the caramel, cream and other candy centers are cooked) was enchanting.

There was always a cook, whether it was my father, my uncle or one of the various assistant cooks, stirring a huge, boiling batch of sugar turned into something even more delicious.

I didn’t know as a child exactly what everything was, but I loved watching the process. Dad pour boiling sugar out onto a cool marble and somehow – somehow – this turned into the caramels and fudges and peanut butter creams I loved so much.

Then there was the molding room (aptly named, for this is where all of the molded chocolates are made). I often saw my grandmother here, tapping the bubbles out of the chocolate after it had been poured into the bunny rabbit or Christmas tree shaped molds, and then trimming the excess chocolate off of the edges once the chocolate had hardened.

If I brought my friends to this room for a tour they always marveled at the large cylindrical melters holding hundreds of pounds of chocolate.

The packing room (where all of the chocolate pieces get packed into boxes) is probably the closest thing to Willy Wonka that we have. It is an entire room filled with chocolates just waiting to be consumed.

As a child, I didn’t understand the complicated business my elders were part of, but I did know this place was spectacular -- not only because what we made was delicious and unique, but because being here meant family.

The candy store often culminated everything a child could want: loving people making delicious, beautiful treats that you often got to eat.

I am not a child any longer. And over the past year, I have begun to work at the store much more to learn about this place in a new way.

I can now transform those boiling kettles of sugar and make melty chocolate into molded rabbits and snowflakes and more.

And although this means that there isn’t magic here for me anymore, my eyes have been opened to something else. I now see all of the hard work that every employee puts in, and I see the lasting effects of a lifetime of hard work from those before us.

Throughout my entire life, my father has been incredibly passionate about this business and these chocolates and until now, I have not understood how a person can stay so passionate for so long about the same thing.

But, when you are a part of every piece of the process from purchasing supplies to cooking, to packaging and selling – how can a person not become emotionally involved?

And I finally, do understand just how superior our products are. Every caramel batch, for instance, is tested by hand. By hand! That means we don’t just cook our caramels to a certain degree and say, “Eh, they’re good enough.” We test every single batch of candy before it is even completed to make sure our product is the absolute best it can possibly be.

Now I’ve caught myself going into seller mode – but that’s the thing I’ve realized. When my father speaks about the candy shop with such fervor that it sounds like he’s trying to sell one person the whole business, not just a caramel bar, it’s because he so completely believes in what we do here.

And that’s true for all of the people that work here. Now, including me.

We might not have the magic that Willy Wonka has, but we certainly have the same drive and the passion for our trade, and for producing something that will delight others.

Today, when I see my three little brothers here at the candy store, it harkens me back to my childhood and how magical this place can be.

It the dream of all three of my brothers to work at the candy shop when they are older and I hope that one day they can be where I am now, looking at this business not just from the perspective of a child who believes in magic, but from the perspective of an adult who is amazed at learning how much life goes into the production of a small piece of chocolate.