When Persephone caught Hades with a nymph in his arms, she lost it. This little nymph, Menthe, was beaten and kicked by Persephone until she became a tiny green plant. Hades, not content to let things go, made the plant incredibly aromatic so that every time Persephone stepped upon the small plant she would be reminded of her foolish wrath.
Today the smell of mint reminds Chicagoans not of wrath, but of chocolate. The Frango Mint has a history about as long as Menthe’s. Originally a Seattle product, it jumped over to Chicago, where Marshall Field’s acquired the production rights and made it in-store. Macy’s acquired Marshall Field’s, tried to outsource the chocolate, failed, and realized that Chicagoans are, unlike Hades, fiercely loyal. So they tried an American Idol-like search for the next Frango Mint maker. Chocolatiers throughout Chicagoland sought the honor of replicating the delightful play of milk chocolate and mint. After multiple callbacks, samples, and taste tests, Macy’s settled on Cupid Candies.
The Wrightwood chocolatier remains one of the South Side’s best-kept secrets. When it was publicly announced that the small, family-owned company would be reproducing Frango Mints, many of its neighbors were surprised to learn of its existence. Despite its low profile, however, it did have a devout following, which counted Mayor Daley amongst its numbers. Cupid Candies offers a wide selection of sugar-free candies made with a natural sweetener that’s as close to the real deal as any diabetic could desire. And the employees are institutions themselves, some having served the family for over twenty years.
Keeping it in the family seems to be a top priority for John Stefanos, the son of the founder. In 1936, Joy Candies was opened by three Greek brothers. They parted ways and created three different companies. One brother opened Joy Candies, the other invented Dove chocolate, and the third, Paul Stefanos, opened up Cupid Candies. The Macy’s deal is significant because it means that the legendary Frango Mint will, once again, be a Chicago native. “It’s good for the city to have a brand name brought back here,” Stefanos says. It is also a great feat to have such a shop succeed on the used car lot haven of 77th Street and Western Avenue. The company believes that they have succeeded where many others have failed because they stick to tried and true methods, namely using pronounceable ingredients and hand-dipping for best quality and taste.
The Frango Mint deal remains very hush-hush. The details are scarce and rumors about the recipe abound online. Cupid Candies maintains that the deal is strictly business and they are doing it for the sake of company growth. But a certain air of pride is released when John Stefanos acknowledges that his chocolates were chosen before all others. In a city like Chicago, a family of Greek immigrants with a sweet tooth a mile wide making it big through chocolates is the fulfillment of the American Dream. It is oddly fitting that the family should join Macy’s, the manifestation of a similar dream, in creating this Midwestern delight. Poor little Menthe was immortalized at the price of being squashed. The Stefanos must be doing her proud in making her such a delicious part of Chicago life
Cupid Candies, 7637 S. Western Ave. (773)925-8193. cupidcandies.com