La Maison De Bon Bon has been bringing sweetness to Forest Park for 85 years and the future looks even sweeter.
French for “house of candy,” various owners have been manufacturing French Crmes in Forest Park since 1921. The candy-making equipment, some of it dating from 1910, is located at Shanahan’s Restaurant. On Oct. 25, La Maison De Bon Bon will finally have its own space, as Shanahan’s opens a small but elegant candy shop at 7353 West Madison St.
Restaurant owner Tim Shanahan said the market is right for expanding the niche shop into a portion of his dining area.
“Chicago is the biggest candy manufacturing city,” Shanahan said. “And lately there’s been an explosion of new product. Chocolate is a very hot commodity right now.”
The shop will feature an upscale assortment of the famous French Crmes, as well as handmade truffles, mints and nut candies too numerous to mention. The shelves will also be stocked with chocolate bars from seven European countries including Belgium, Germany and Ireland.
The Irish-named restaurant will have its own Parisian-style shop that will also stock inexpensive selections for candy’s biggest consumers–kids. Shanahan’s wife, Radana, will staff the store. A native of the Czech Republic, Radana Shanahan worked at her grandmother’s chocolatier in Paris where, among other things, she learned how to make truffles.
Tim Shanahan also has experience in a different kind of candy business.
“I worked in the panning rooms at Ferrara Pan,” Shanahan said. “We had copper kettles with heat underneath and we’d throw in sugar to make Atomic Fireballs.”
Shanahan landed the job thanks to his lifelong friendship with company owner Sal Ferrara.
“We went to St. Luke’s, Fenwick and Loyola of New Orleans,” Shanahan said. “We worked together at Fat Harry’s in New Orleans.”
The two were fraternity brothers and roommates during college. Shanahan is grateful for the technical advice and expertise Ferrara has given him now that he is launching his own candy shop.
Chocolate manufacturing first came to Madison Street when the Steger family arrived from Germany and began making French Crmes. The Jerome family followed and continued the tradition of selling the hand-made treats.
Tim Shanahan bought the business from Carl Schwebl in the early 1990s, who suggested that Shanahan continue to market the French Crmes. In fact, Schwebl said he told Shanahan he may be “missing the boat” by not promoting the French Crmes more prominently.
Shanahan continues to bump into longtime customers and former employees of previous owners, and is amazed by some of manufacturing practices passed through the generations.
“I can’t believe it when old people who used to work for the Jeromes come into the restaurant,” Shanahan said. “They talk about the handmade freshness and how they wouldn’t sell a box after it was 10 days old.”
The store has is its own entrance on Madison Street and Radana Shanahan plans to staff it seven days a week. However, even when the shop isn’t open the restaurant will have candy for sale.