Encyclopedia Of Detroit


A great Detroit tradition was started in 1875 when Frederick Sanders Schmidt relocated from Chicago to Detroit after his original soda fountain and candy store was destroyed by Chicago’s Great Fire of 1871. In Detroit, he first opened as a single candy store on Woodward Avenue and Gratiot on June 17, 1875. As business grew, he introduced ice-cream, sodas and baked goods.

“The Pavilion of Sweets,” Sanders’ most famed confectionary, opened on Woodward in 1891. It had a red and white awning and tower that was similar to a mosque. It was here that the nation’s first ice cream soda was supposedly born, though Sanders is not the only man to stake his claim for inventing the drink. One evening during the summer of 1876, Sanders ran out of fresh cream for his cream sodas. In an effort to please the store full of eager customers, he used a scoop of ice-cream instead. His patrons were thrilled with the taste and word of the new beverage spread. The substitution of ice cream for regular cream became a customary offering at soda fountains and stores throughout the nation.

In addition to candy and the ice cream soda, hot fudge became one of Sanders’ prime products. Like other Sanders treats, the recipe was apparently passed down through generations. An especially sought after sweet that has delighted sweet tooths for years is Sanders’ “bumpy cake,” named for the chocolate frosting that covers thick ridges of buttercream.

Sanders was unique for a variety of reasons, including the professionalism of its staff. At one time the Woodward Avenue store was opened on Sundays, although Sanders closed the shop after patrons were offended by his attempts to do business on the Sabbath. The business is recognized as being the first to employ both a carry-out service and the use dry ice to keep food cold, as well as for its low stools and counters that have since become customary.

Sanders quickly became Detroit’s leading candy provider. Business expanded to a chain of candy stores, including some inside shopping centers. Sanders products were also sold at 200 local grocers. The products later became available at national grocery stores, many of which were even outfitted with special Sanders baking stations.

In 1975, Jack Sanders, the great-grandson of the founder, celebrated the company’s centennial. He invited Detroit’s mayor and other city officials and celebrities behind his counter so they could craft their own sundae favorites. Also part of the festivities was a replica of his family’s 1890s horse-drawn wagon, which perused Detroit’s streets throughout the centennial events.

After having several owners and with business declining in the 70s and 80s, the company closed its central downtown location and its Highland Park Headquarters. In 2002, the rights to the Sanders name and products was purchased by the Morley Candy Company. The new ownership has now opened nine stores in metro Detroit and two on Mackinac Island. Morley honors recipes perfected by the Sanders family and attests that their products still embody the legendary “just good as you remember” taste. Sanders products are still sold at grocery stores across metro Detroit today.



Sanders Pavillion of Sweets, 1880 - 1995.012.064

Interior of the Sanders Pavillion of Sweets, 1900 - 1995.012.052a

View all items related to Sanders