Tradition is a word that defines Christmas: trees, stockings, carols and goodies. But family togetherness tops the list.
Few places can boast of such family togetherness as the Condies.The Condie family runs a seasonal candy business. From October through December, four generations of Condies experience 12-hour-a-day togetherness. From a narrow back alley shop on South Main Street, hundreds of pounds of hand-dipped chocolates are dispensed.
Condie Candy Company began in 1924, when Grandpa Condie moved his family from Cincinnati to Salt Lake City. Starting with "dumbbells", a chocolate lollipop on both ends of a stick (built to share with a friend) Condie progressed to clear, hard candy toys. The next project was "old-fashioned chocolate mounds." "All the while, Dad was searching for a better product, better in quality and in sales," recalled Gertrude Phillips Condie, one of four Condie daughters.
Gertrude recently reminisced about the early days of the chocolate dipping business. "Dad worked long hours to develop his chocolate recipes. We still use the original recipes and notes he jotted down in 1924."
Gertrude recalled coming home from school to chocolate dipping. "Dipping wasn't my favorite. I enjoyed the business up front. I took orders and collected money, but Dad insisted we all practice dipping. I'm still not a fancy dipper; I'm the in-charge person."
Still, dipping know-how has stuck in Gertrude's memory through the years. The recipe book is in tact, and Gertrude's son and daughter-in-law, Phil and Geri Condie, keep the family tradition going. Phil's daughters have all been to college, some work at other jobs but all come back to keep the chocolate business alive for the holiday season.
Phil explained, "I guess it's loyalty, the feeling of respect we have for my grandfather's investment, that makes us hold on to the 60-year tradition. But, then, it's a good business. We've never paid to advertise; our business has grown by word of mouth, bite by bite. Some of our customers have been with us for more than 40 years. For example, our largest sale is one of 40-year loyalty. Last year we packed 255 5-pound (boxes) and 65 3-pound (boxes) for this customer. That's a lot of dipping."
Years of chocolate dipping has yet to affect Grandma Gertrude's slim figure; she lives by the motto, "You're on your way with a chocolate a day," which belies the calorie content of the creamy bites. Gertrude further explained, "Why, you can eat four or five chocolates a day, if you just skip the gravy. Some days I'd wake up with a resolve not to eat a chocolate that day; the resolve lasted until I got near an open box of chocolates."
According to Gertrude, it takes at least two years of experience to perfect the chocolate-dipping techniques. Nut-cluster dipping is the easiest to learn. In the dipping process, chocolate covers the dipper's hands and arms almost to the elbows. Even noses get an occasional chocolate touch from hand dipping.
"In reality," Gertrude explained, "dipping chocolates is a lot like making mud pies but the results are obviously different."
Grandma Gertrude shares a final piece of advice for potential chocolate dippers, "Don't be afraid, chocolate is your friend."
Chocolate has been very goodto the Condie family for more than 60 years. Most of us delight in tasting anything chocolate, but Condie's hand-dipped confections in are far from ordinary chocolate bites.