History, memories, deliciousness live at Lindell’s

This scene from the late 1940s or early 1950s at Lindell’s Chocolate Shoppe shows three employee working behind the counter wearing party hats, though the occasion is not mentioned on the back of the photo. (Photo courtesy of Lindell’s Chocolate Shoppe)

By Deborah K. Frontiera
The building at the corner of Third and Calumet Streets in Lake Linden has been many things: a warehouse for Joseph Bosch’s beer in 1893, a grocery, a mercantile, an indoor archery range, and then in 1918, the Lindell Chocolate Shoppe. It is now listed in both the state and national Register of Historic Places for its “outstanding historical and architectural significance.” Originally located a few doors north of its present location, James Pallis and Louis Grammas specialized in homemade candies, ice cream, fruits, tobacco and other sundries. They came up with the Lindell name by combining the villages of Lake Linden and Hubbell: “lind” and “ell.”
The interior of the building is virtually unchanged from its original, and is one of the best examples of early wood and stained-glass decor. Golden oak predominates with an elaborate archway separating areas that once were bar and restaurant. Visitors are greeted by the original stained-glass sign above a turn-of-the-century cloth rollaway canopy and large pained windows with historic displays. It is the last original 1920s style confectionary in Michigan.
Where once the menu was dominated by old-fashioned soda fountain drinks and confections, one can now order home-style meals. And, yes, there are still homemade chocolates and luscious fudgy brownies available. Owners Christy and James Batzel and their children, Bobby, Cody, Sara and son-in-law Jay, all work the family business 364 days a year. Christmas Day is the only day they are closed, but they host a Christmas Party for “regulars” just before the holiday. The Batzels bought the business in 2009 from Francis Grunow. Before Grunow (going back to the 1950s and 60s) it was owned by the Bea and John Gekas family, whose children also worked there.
As Christy and I sat over coffee sharing memories of the place, she told me that she had found the Gekas Candy Book with all their original recipes. It was terribly tattered and worn. Some pages were unreadable and others listed ingredients unfamiliar to Christy. The names of many things have changed over time. Some she was able to learn by looking up on the Internet; others remain a mystery. She was able to save a few of the recipes and now she makes hose chocolates. I sampled a hand-dipped, dark chocolate, chewy bite of coconut, something like a “Mounds” bar but far superior to that candy bar.
The building’s history is secondary to the people who sat in its booths over the generations. Many a first date over a soda or an ice cream Sunday led to a wedding later. I remember during my high school years in the 1960s when you could still choose a song on the juke box, put a coin in the “Nickelodeon” slot and the song would play…

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