It’s the unlikeliest meeting of two holidays, and the Illinois Nut & Candy store of Skokie was not about to let it go unnoticed.
In our lifetimes, owner David Levine explains, we will never see another Nov. 28 like this one — when Hanukkah also falls on Thanksgiving.
Welcome to the unofficial consolidated holiday of Thanksgivukkah.
And what better place to honor it with chocolate “menurkeys” than the deliciously innovative candy store that has made a business out of customized and creative sweet concoctions?
The menurky, which comes in a big centerpiece-like design ($85) or as smaller lollipops ($3.75 each) celebrates both the menorah of Hanukkah and the turkey of Thanksgiving — all artistically designed using the same edible material: chocolate.
The technical reasons for this once-in-a-lifetime convergence have to do with a rarity between the lunar Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar.
The time of year shifts slightly with the lunar calendar and every so often there is a leap month.
“What’s happened is, the holidays all got earlier because we haven’t had a leap year in awhile with the extra month on the lunar calendar,” Levine said.
Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday of the month.
The result is that Hanukkah falls a bit earlier than usual, Thanksgiving a bit later, and two holidays collide.
“It was a unique opportunity for us,” Levine said. “Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall at the exact same time and we’ll never be able to say that again.”
It was Levine’s wife, Melissa Rothner-Levine, who first recognized Thanksgivukkah was coming. She called her husband and pressed upon him that Illinois Nut & Candy had to mark the occasion.
Levine ordered up special molds for menurkeys to celebrate a date that no one will see again. The lollipop molds were first created and then the ones for the large menorah chocolate pieces, Levine said.
The store put its original Thanksgivukkah creations on sale about six weeks ago. The response has been strong.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and thank God, they’ve been selling very nicely for us,” Levine said. “As much as I thought this would take off, it’s definitely exceeded my expectations.”
Levine and his wife bought the store in 2004 when it was still on Lincoln Avenue in Skokie and named the Illinois Nut Outlet. Levine was in the dot.com industry, first riding high before everything crashed.
“One day you’re doing great and the next day you’re unemployed,” he said.
He worked for a municipal government for a short time, but it wasn’t for him. His wife had worked for Illinois Nut Outlet when she was in school, so when the opportunity came up to purchase the place, the couple jumped on it.
“Everybody kept saying to me you’ve got to do something you love,” Levine said. “Who doesn’t love chocolate, candy and nuts? It’s kind of like an alcoholic owning a bar.”
Once the Levines moved the business to a new location at 3745 Dempster St., they changed the name and then painted the outside of the store. It acquired the look of a candy wonderland of sorts — both inside and outside.
“I had this vision that it’s a candy store so it should be fun,” Levine said. “We had a drab facade and we knew the store should be a welcoming place.”
When the Levines took over, the store website was merely an on-line brochure. They made sure on-line ordering could take place, and while cyber-purchases account for only about 5 percent of the business, Illinois Nut & Candy filled orders from all 50 states last year.
The store has always offered specialty niche items — sweets that are kosher, sugar fee, gluten fee, lactose free, nut free and much more. The business, in fact, is the largest kosher candy store in the Midwest.
And, yet, Illinois Nut & Candy also offers the traditional treats that are rich and delectable with every bite. But sometimes, those bites come in nontraditional forms.
“The heart of the business is in-store, but more than that, it’s the corporate angle. We create customized (products) for a lot of different (clients),” Levine said.
Since the candy is home-made, special orders can always be accommodated. The business has won multiple awards for its innovative specialties.
Several years ago, a giant 2.5-pound candy cluster was made for a woman’s 90th birthday.
“What we create in this store is not just about giving chocolate,” Levine said. “It’s about giving something that leaves a lasting impression.”
That’s certainly true of its newest creation.
The store’s menurkeys — whether in deluxe centerpiece form or in more modest lollipop form — is certain to leave that lasting impression to which Levine refers. How couldn’t it since no one will live through another Thanksgivukkah again?