The little Bon Bon Bon chocolate factory crafts ‘handmade in Hamtramck’ treats
Photographs by EE Berger
The sign on the door of Bon Bon Bon’s little storefront in Hamtramck tells would-be patrons that the shop is only open on Saturdays, but that they may come in other days if they bring champagne.
That’s not a joke. A couple of times a week, says the shop’s proprietor and guiding chocolatier, Alexandra (Alex) Clark, someone stops by with a bottle of bubbly and as promised, the door swings open to let them into her chocolate factory.
Clark and her two employees, Carrie Hause and Stephanie Poe, are there most weekdays, chopping and melting and pureeing, pouring the gleaming dark brown liquid into the forms that create the bonbons’ tiny shells, then adding fillings with flavors such as Key lime, Boston cooler, and bacon, all from Clark’s recipes. The shop offers 46 bite-size bonbons in all, with 24 available on any given Saturday when the shop is open all day, no champagne required.
Each candy has a name, including S’mores, Neapolitan, High Tea, Red Pop, and Creme Brulee, for the flavors infused into the chocolate. But chocolate is really the name of the game, with seven varieties purchased from American companies but mostly from South and Central America and Hawaii, the only state that produces cacao beans.
Clark is no amateur when it comes to chocolate. The Plymouth native has been fascinated with cacao and its products for years. After graduating from Michigan State in 2010, where her degree was in hospitality business and food science, she studied baking and pastry arts at Schoolcraft College and lived in New Zealand while studying agricultural commerce at Massey University there.
Practical experience came at Max Brenner Chocolate Bar and Restaurant in Boston and brief stints back home at Sander’s & Morley’s, where she worked midnights on the line to pay her Schoolcraft tuition, and later as a pastry cook at the Detroit Athletic Club. A trip to Paris sealed the chocolate deal. She says she managed to visit 44 chocolate shops in Paris and even more in Belgium. However, her favorite chocolates don’t come from Paris or Belgium but from Puccini Bomboni in Amsterdam.
Whenever friends happens to be traveling there, Clark gives them $100 to buy Puccini Bomboni truffles: “fifty dollars worth for them, and fifty dollars worth to bring back for me.”
Much of Bon Bon Bon’s retail business is done through mail order via the website, and also wholesale orders from hotels and restaurants. Packaging is as unique as the products. The bonbons are wrapped in honeycomb pallet stacking material used to protect pallets in shipping — just the right industrial touch for a product made in Hamtramck. Clark’s father, Tom, came up with a special tool to cut the massive material into bonbon friendly size.
Bon Bon Bon, 2756 Evaline St., Hamtramck; 313-316-1430 or visit bonbonbon.com. They are also setting up a stand in Eastern Market in November and December.