Before Valentines Day the lines can be long at Sydney Bogg, Detroits oldest chocolatier, but if you need to impress a certain sweetie, this is the place to do it.
"What makes our candy so good?" asks owner Jim McGuire. "Its very simple. We buy the most expensive chocolate in the world."
McGuire and his wife Judy have owned the company since 1995, and Sydney Boggs original store has been at the same location on Woodward just south of Seven Mile since its founding in 1936. Sydney Bogg and his wife lived on the second floor of the building next door; Bogg himself came to work every day until his death in 1988.
Bogg started out his career as a streetcar driver who made candy as a hobby, and sold his confections to his passengers. Later, he worked downtown as an engineer. He left for work at 6 a.m., came home at 6 p.m., and made candy until midnight.
In those days, there were hundreds of candy stores in the area, each making its own chocolates. Bogg apprenticed to a Highland Park candy maker, Harold Vair, who made his fortune with a patent on Poppycock.
Today, the McGuires continue on the tradition, and offer tours of their factory to curious chocolate lovers.
A recent tour of the factory started at the dipping room, where the chocolate is melted and then worked by hand on a cold counter. In the enrobing department, McGuire is dismayed to see the assembly process at a standstill. He begins to load buttercream centers that have already been "bottomed" with a layer of dark chocolate onto a conveyor belt. The centers travel through a curtain of melted chocolate. On the other side, a worker dips her finger into the excess chocolate and traces a "B" onto the top of each candy to identify it.
After a trek through a cooling conveyor, the buttercreams emerge and are packed into stock boxes. McGuire nods to Willie, a recent immigrant from Iraq. "He has the Lucille Ball end," McGuire grins, referring to an "I Love Lucy" episode that takes place on a similar assembly line.
In the packing room, Beth and Lou Ann assemble chocolates into enormous satin- and lace-covered heart-shaped boxes.
"They are artists," McGuire says.
The newest machine in the factory is 25 years old. A copper candy-makers kettle with an automated stirring contraption of bronze paddles dates to the 1930s.
"You cant get parts for this machine," McGuire says, pointing to where the paddles have been repaired. There is a welding shop that happily makes repairs, particularly when McGuire arrives with a couple of boxes of chocolate.
"Were their hobby," he says.
Like Bogg, Jim McGuire has a day job, as a computer consultant. He laughs when he thinks of making money at his business. "We all have our passions," he explains. "Mine is to help this company survive."
Sydney Bogg is located at 18932 Woodward in Detroit, 1205 S. Main Street in Royal Oak and 3584 W. Maple in Bloomfield Hills. Tours of the factory can be arranged by calling 313-368-2470.
Get romantic at Morels, A Michigan Bistro (30100 Telegraph, Bingham Farms) with "A Taste of France." The $45 prix fixe feast features five courses of cuisine Française, and takes place this Thursday, Feb. 10 and Friday, Feb. 11. Call 248-642-1094, ext. 3, for reservations and information. ... Treat your sweetie to a three-course Valentine dinner for two at the Majestic Café (4124 Woodward, Detroit) on Sunday, Feb. 13 or Monday, Feb. 14. The $50 meal features a choice of appetizer and entrée, and includes a complimentary glass of wine. Call 313-833-9700 for reservations.