The Frozen 2 – Gertrude Shalala Chocolate Shop Connection

Bringing candy into the movie theater

The preferred chocolates of my youth were Milky Way, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, and Gertrude Shalala’s chocolates.

Pearl and I went to see Frozen 2 last week. I’m still trying to figure out the story plot and will need to see it six or seven more times before I can explain it with clarity to a 6-year-old.

Curse you and your marketing minions Robert Allen Iger! That’s like over $200 more before we can sing “Into the Unknown” with gleeful abandonment and I understand how the song works in the story arc.

That also means 6 or 7 more trips with Pearl to the Dollar Store to spend $2.00 on candy. I always get something chocolatey. Pearl gets, well… I don’t know exactly what she gets, but I can say with sincerity her choices are universally foul and never fail to make me wish I was packing a water pik.

In the 1960’s the preferred chocolates of my youth were Milky Way, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, and Gertrude Shalala’s chocolates from her small shop on Hertel Avenue between Crestwood and Commonwealth Avenues.

But those were not an everyday treat. With a quarter in your fist, you could walk into the Shalala sisters’ shop accompanied by the tune of a small bell ringing behind you as you shut the door.

You stopped.

You smelled deeply, filling your lungs to capacity, two or three or even four times, jolting your endorphins into high gear. Women wearing starched white linen uniforms and hairnets stood behind a long counter that stretched the length of the shop. Behind them was a table that held scales and boxes, fancy tissue papers and wrappings, and thin ribbon used to bind boxes for carrying a precious cargo on its voyage from shop to gullet.

The counters were filled from east to west and north to south with a bedazzling number of different trays holding different chocolates. Squares, circles, rectangles, mounds, flats, adorned and unadorned, each tray filled with products that started as beans in Costa Rica and ended, lined up like soldiers at attention in perfect stillness in perfect formation behind the glass cases.

You gave the clerk your quarter. She would turn, grab a white piece of cardboard from the worktable, and with a few practiced flips of the wrist, would turn what had been flatness into the perfect conveyance for the 4 pieces of chocolate you could get.

Sometimes you knew exactly what you wanted. Sometimes you got suggestions. But every time, as you were leaving the shop with your ribbon bound treasures, there was a smile and an extra piece of chocolate waiting for you.

That did not happen when Pearl and I left the Dollar Store. It sure didn’t happen at the movie theater where the same stuff we bought at the Dollar Store cost 600% more at the concession stand.  

So forgive me my hankering for a piece of Gertrude Shalala chocolate. But I do have recommendations for taking a younger grandkid to the movies.

First, bone up on the plot so you don’t embarrass yourself when trying to explain if Olaf really died or (spoiler alert!) not. Second, spend a buck at the Dollar Store but be respectful – or at least as respectful as you can – of parental policies regarding candy consumption.

And if I may, one last piece of advice?

Never, ever enter a movie theater and smell deeply two or more times, filling your lungs to capacity. I can tell you from personal experience that it will smell nothing like the Gertrude Shalala Chocolate Shop on Hertel Avenue.

The Frozen 2 – Gertrude Shalala Chocolate Shop Connection

2 thoughts on “The Frozen 2 – Gertrude Shalala Chocolate Shop Connection

  1. Wonderful memory piece! I smelled the scent of Shalala’s as soon as you mentioned it, and it stays with me, even though I never smelled it anywhere else. It was such a unique place to have in walking distance of my childhood.

  2. Well, it’s 4 months later and unfortunately we are under the self isolation umbrella of Covid 19. I have been looking for places to pick up chocolate curbside – sad and yet fortunate at the same time. I stumbled upon William Sonoma who will mail my Easter confections, etc. to the house. Pictures of candy carrots add to their baskets and cakes. Alas, they are not the carrots of Gertrude Shalala’s. If anyone remembers them, they were delicate, ornate, frosty with a dense creamy texture and a dense color. Looking up recipes, I can only find Marzipan. I don’t that’s it. Does anyone know how they were made. Are there any Gertrude descendants who care to share the secret. I have been searching for this delicacy for decades.

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