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updated: 10/10/2012 2:09 PM

Suburban chocolatier Morkes dies at 90

Morkes brought chocolate business to the suburbs

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  • William Morkes

    William Morkes

  • William Morkes

    William Morkes

By Eileen O. Daday

William Morkes grew up in the family business, Morkes Chocolates, learning to make hand-dipped candies and caramel apples with his father.

But while he learned the business from a master, Morkes made the pivotal decision that changed the direction of the company: He moved it to Rand Road in Palatine.

Morkes passed away Oct. 2 surrounded by his family at Pepper Family Hospice in Barrington. The Crystal Lake resident was 90.

His youngest daughter, Rhonda Dehn, runs the candy business now in the same location her father established in 1967. A little over four years ago, she opened a second retail location of Morkes Chocolates in Algonquin, and combined they sell nearly 70,000 pounds of chocolates a year.

They moved their manufacturing plant to Lake Zurich in order to have more room for the production of their wide array of treats and bakery goods.

"Back in the '60s, a friend of my father's did a market analysis and he said the growth was in the Northwest corridor," Dehn says. "Rand Road was always a big route for people going to the lakes."

At first, Morkes had planned to supply area schools with caramel apples that they could sell as a fundraiser. But within a year, his father closed the Chicago shop and they moved the whole candy line out to Palatine.

They set up shop in a small building on land that formerly had been part of a cow farm near Quentin and Rand roads. Along with Skrudland Photo Service and Knupper Nursery, they were among the original merchants to anchor the business district.

"The location was the key," Dehn says. "The company grew as the whole Northwest corridor built up."

Many of the candy lines her father brought to Palatine some 45 years ago, remain, including the French crèmes, handmade candy canes, English toffees and entire line of crème filled chocolates.

The caramel apples that he originally intended to build a new business around also remain popular, and together with the donuts and line of muffins that his son, Billy, developed in the late 1960s, continue to be big draws.

At the recent Oktoberfest hosted last month by the Palatine Rotary, Morkes Chocolates sold more than 4,000 donuts.

Her father couldn't have forseen the popularity of handmade truffles as the candy market got more sophisticated, but he knew the popularity of chocolates produced locally with recipes that date back to the 1920s, would endure.

Morkes is survived by six children: William (Kathleen) Morkes III; Wayne (Joanne) Morkes; Linda (John) Schaber; Laura (David) Davis; Debra Heatherly; Sandra DePaul and Rhonda (Mark) Dehn; as well as 20 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Elaine.

Visitation will take place 5-9 p.m. Thursday, at Davenport Family Funeral Home, 419 E. Terra Cotta Ave. A 10:30 a.m. funeral Mass will be held Friday at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 451 W. Terra Cotta Ave, both in Crystal Lake.

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