Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Some History on Sanders Confectionery Store in Detriot

Picture from Detroit Genealogy on Facebook Article from Detroit News Sanders Confectionery Store on Woodward in the 1890's Did you know that it was one of the first businesses in Detroit to be open on Sunday?

Soda Jerk: a fellow of infinite skill, able to produce a milkshake with a few deft moves with large containers and a mixing machine
Jim Barry, a former soda-jerk, says “Being a soda jerk was a wonderful work experience. You had to deal directly with people and you had to make change from an old cash register that made a great clanging, ringing noise whenever you rang up a sale.” Soda Jerks failed rebellion in 1938: At the University of Michigan student soda jerkers were upset with the term “soda jerk” so they formed a society called: Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Soda Jerkers Who want to be Known as Fountaineers of America
Ellyce Field, a Detroit News writer, describing her visit to Sanders:  “Nineteen stools surround the fountain service area. Neon lights highlight colorful painted graphics of hot fudge bottles, strawberries and cherries. Hanging over the far end of the counter is an old fashioned clock with the inscription 'Always Time For Ice Cream', the true Sanders aficionado's creed. Here a child (or one at heart) can dangle his legs, twirl on the stools, make faces in the mirrored walls, watch other customers across the counter dribble hot fudge on their shirts, take deep breaths of the hot fudge in large containers just inches away and best of all, watch those great sundaes and sodas being made..”
Sanders in Detroit
No ice cream parlors could compete in Detroit when it came to SandersFred Sanders founded his company in 1875, opening a store on Woodward and Gratiot. Sanders started selling candy, then ice cream, later adding bake goods, ice cream sodas and sundaes. By the early 1970s, they had 58 stores and with additional sales through 200 supermarkets. In the early days, Fred Sanders opened of Sundays, a big day for business. One day, standing near the open door, he overheard two ladies say, "My! It is time that something is being done about these men who are trying to get the everlasting dollar and find it necessary to violate the Sabbath." Fred Sanders closed his store and Sanders never again opened on Sundays, a decision he never regretted. Fred W., grandson of the founder, left school in the l0th grade to learn the business and started out cracking ice for ice cream freezers. As he grew older, he turned freezers by hand. During the 1890s Grandpa Fred Sanders bought an electric motor and Fred W. was out of a job. Grandfather Fred Sanders had troubled with the “new-fangled”  motor and threatened to throwing it out. Edison talked Sanders into giving it another try and sent over a men to repair it--The repair man was Henry Ford, 1891, Sanders built the “Pavilion of Sweets” on Woodwar--an unconventional casino with mosque-type tower in front and gay red-and-white striped awnings. here is where Grandpa Sanders is credited with inventing the ice cream soda. The story goes that one summer evening when crowds swarmed in for sweet cream sodas, when Fred discovered the cream was sour. He substituted a scope of ice cream, telling the crowd, “I can give you something just as good." This was the premiere of the ice cream soda. As word spread and the ice cream soda became so popular, Sanders had to hire more help and add six more horse blocks in front of the store
Heroin in Chocolate? In 1929 the director of the State Narcotic Association, a Dr. Waite, charged that candy makers were putting heroin into chocolate drops and selling them for $2 a box.
  "Three of these chocolate drops," he insisted, "induce in young women a spirit of bravado that takes the place of modesty. Young men know of this. Often when they buy their girls a box of chocolate, which seems an innocent thing, this is but a prelude to a tragic story." 
Fred Sanders was incensed and wrote, "I cannot conceive of a legitimate confectioner performing a deed of this kind...If this practice is a true fact, the name of said confectioner should be published (so) the industry as a whole may not suffer".
Dr. Waite later retracted his story. Celebrating Sanders centennial in 1975. Jack Sanders, great grandson of the founder, invited the Mayor of Detroit, city council and other Detroit celebrities to step behind the counter and make their own favorite ice cream dessert. He also recreated the Sanders 1890s horse-drawn ice cream wagon. 
Sanders Innovations: The first carry-out service. The comfortable low stool and table height counters which became the standard in the industry. The “Kiddie tray” that brought the fountain down to a child’s with a unique device that formed a subshelf below that counter top. Ice tray packages that made it possible to store ice cream at home. The use of dry ice to keep the product coldSanders sponsored a baking school at Oakland Community College in 1976, sending their own people as teachers. Many remember the efficient and helpful service of Sanders employees
A 1952 Detroit News article describes in detail the five days of training that awaited prospective employees, covering how to dress and what to say, all the recipes for the soda fountain (there was a recipe for everything from hot chocolate to Boston coolers) and operating the cash register. In training for candy sales, employees were told it was better to be slightly over than under when weighing a customer's order. “We can’t afford to appear stingy.” Employees also had to pass written exams. As of July 1996, there were no more Sanders stores. The last four remaining stores operate under the name of “Olde Detroit Confectioners”


  1. This reminds me of watching the old Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Those were the days when real sugar was used in candy, sodas and chocolate instead of corn syrup. Hmmmm, I can taste the ice cream floats now! Very cool to hear how it came about. I cannot imagine puting straight cream in soda- gross. I'm sure an ice cream float was just the thing children wanted to give them a boost after a long morning in church.

    I loved reading the progression of doing "good business," and the start of businesses being open on Sundays. Its great to see such great documentation. Keep it coming!

  2. This is just a fascinating story! Only if my Grandma was still around, she was a true Sanders fan. She always served us grandkids ice cream with Sanders chocolate fudge sundae and sometimes caramel too. My mom grew up with various chocolates. Every Sunday she and her family arrive at her grandparents' house and she'd run to the buffet and open the drawer to find some Sanders candy waiting for her to eat!