Photo for the Tribune by Charles Osgood
July 19, 2009
Calculating the number of storefront business establishments in the Chicago area has heretofore defied our mathematical abilities.
"Oh, I don't know," said Osgood. "A million?"
We don't know. We will never know. Though there is undoubtedly some agency that keeps track of such things, we rather like not knowing and just encountering.
So, we take you to a street in Andersonville, Clark Street, the 5400 block. There we find a nail salon, a pasta shop, a restaurant called Hamburger Mary's, a place selling Moroccan "treasures," a wine shop, a noodle joint, an insurance outfit, an olive oil emporium, the Brown Elephant resale shop, a dog grooming place ... you get the picture.
There are other businesses in this busy block, and the smallest of them is Bon Bon at 5410 N. Clark St. It was opened in 2001 by Elizabeth Hulme-Zuverink. That's her daughter in Osgood's photo: Madison Zuverink, who is studying for a degree in cellular molecular biology at Loyola University. What she is holding is a moon box, made of chocolate and containing smaller pieces of candy that have been formed into distinctive shapes such as rose petal discs, acorns, stars, pyramids, King Tuts, Cleopatras, Buddhas and, for the adult crowd, various Kama Sutra poses.
All of the candy is handmade in the back of the shop with French and Belgian couverature, which in French means "covering" but is also the type of chocolate the store uses, and is said by many food folks to be the highest quality chocolate in the world. But what sets Bon Bon apart and what obviously appeals to its loyal customers is that the chocolate is mingled with exotic flavors such as chai, ancho chili, various spices, cardamom, ginger and sweet curry.
"We like to think a bit out of the box, so to speak," says Hulme-Zuverink. "We are always experimenting with flavors and textures. Our collaboration consists of me telling her my ideas and her shooting them down."
She's joking, sort of. But mother and daughter get especially collaborative and creative around the holidays. Last Halloween, for instance, they were offering some quite delicious items made with pumpkin cream and pumpkin pie spice.
When the store opened, Hulme-Zuverink was warned that a shop selling exclusively chocolate would never make it. But business has been steady and word-of-mouth strong. The shop is open only on Fridays and Saturdays (noon-8 p.m.) and Sundays (noon-5 p.m.), though a great many people order online (bonbonchicago.com).
It has a many steady clients, including such celebrated and discerning types as actor Bill Murray, author Neil Gaiman and comic Sarah Silverman. Hulme-Zuverink's husband, longtime Chicago radio producer Dan Falato, who is currently working on Harry Shearer's syndicated radio show, almost never stops talking about his wife's business. When the incomparable Welsh singer/songwriter Judith Owen (Shearer's wife) recently played The Space in Evanston, Hulme-Zuverink made a backstage delivery.
But most of the store's customers are not famous. They just like chocolate. Who doesn't?