Minonk Chocolate Company carries on more than 100-year tradition

By Beth Harms Miller for Chronicle Media

Minonk Chocolate Company has been making mouth-watering treats for more than 100 years. (Photo courtesy of Minonk Chocolate Company)

Though the name of the business has changed over the years; the products are still the same.  Entrepreneur Zack Meyer is carrying on a more than 100-year tradition with his business at Minonk Chocolate Company by making and selling caramel apples and other chocolate creations from vintage recipes from the original owners.

The Paloumpis family started the business as owners of Princess Sweet Shop from 1915-76. Duane and Ivanelle Cunningham then took over and renamed it Cunningham’s Candies from 1976-93. Sisters Christie and Cindy Ketchmark ran Cunningham’s Candies from 1993-2021, changing the name to Minonk Chocolate Company in 2015. Zach Meyer became owner of the business in 2021.

From the day after Labor Day until Halloween, Minonk Chocolate will drip about 14,000 caramel apples a week.  Caramel is made from the simple ingredients of sugar, butter and a dairy product in large copper kettles over a fire mixer which has stirring arms and a heating unit.  It takes about 45 minutes to cook a batch of caramel and about 45 minutes for the about 325 apples to be dipped.  The staff make between 10 and 12 batches a day.  Some of the apples are dipped in to chopped peanuts before being put on trays to cool.  Each apple is inserted into a small plastic bag and sealed with a twist tie.  The Jonathan apples used come mostly from the four generation Rendelman Orchard in southern Illinois or Michigan if the Illinois supply runs out before the season ends.

Minonk Chocolate Company carries on the tradition first started by the Paloumpis family in 1915 when they opened Princess Sweet Shop. (Photo by Beth Harms Miller)

Two vans leave Minonk each day to deliver to more than 100 businesses in Central Illinois from Sycamore to the north, Fairbury to the east, Champaign to southeast, Bloomington to the south, and Peoria to the west.  If you see the white two-shelved display cases in these stores, just know that they were made with quality products and love by Zach’s grandpa Tom Ketchmark when Zack’s mom and aunt were running the business.

Minonk Chocolates is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at 551 N. Chestnut St. in Minonk.  See more about the business and their other products at minonkchocolatecompany.com.