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Image of a person's hand holding up a bite-sized chocolate in front of Gayle's Chocolate shop.

Bittersweet Sendoff

Gayle’s Chocolates to relocate to Arizona after 34 years in Royal Oak.

For decades, chocolatier Gayle Harte has made many occasions sweeter from weddings to bar/bat mitzvahs to holiday celebrations and more. So, it’s no surprise that she’s doing something sweet for friends and fans to soften the blow of her departure after 34 years in Royal Oak.

 

Gayle Harte

Gayle Harte

Harte, 70, and her husband are relocating to Arizona, and she will close her Royal Oak retail store on South Washington Avenue next month. Before she goes, she’s giving away free chocolate — boxes of her original four-piece truffles — to the first 100 customers who visit the store on her birthday, Saturday, April 21.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped make Gayle’s such a great success,” Harte says. “It’s a fun business. We’ve had the privilege of marking so many different holidays, milestones and happy occasions over the years.”

A single mother at the time, Harte started her business in 1979 with one saucepan on one stove in Huntington Woods. The home-based chocolate-making operation grew and, in 1984, she moved production to Royal Oak. The retail shop opened on the first floor of the building the day before Valentine’s Day in 1985. Gayle’s was the first to serve espresso in Royal Oak; the chocolate shop opened before the downtown area was bustling.

“I’ve been in Royal Oak for a long, long time. This is home. But, it’s time for me to start a new chapter in my life,” Harte says. “Looking back, these 34 years have flown by so fast because I truly love what I do. I’m incredibly thankful to all of the employees and customers who have come through our doors.”

Known as the place to find chocolate high-heeled shoes, a “stuffed” chocolate turkey you can smash on Thanksgiving, and more than 4,000 creative and colorful designs, Gayle’s still uses its original recipes and fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

A 1991 Detroit Jewish News article in the William Davidson Archive of Jewish Detroit History reveals how Harte added kosher-parve chocolates to her candy collection.

“I researched different kinds of chocolate and found a premium brand that was approved by the rabbis,” she said.

Image of a person's hand holding up a bite-sized chocolate in front of Gayle's Chocolate shop.After the Council of Orthodox Rabbis authorized her as a kosher chef, Harte started making the kosher treats in a separate kosher kitchen. Custom orders also helped her business grow, including a big national project to mark the year 2000. Neiman Marcus sold a chocolate clock box made by Gayle’s filled with chocolate versions of some of mankind’s greatest inventions — including a spaceship, a telephone and a frozen TV dinner. The clocks were featured in the department store’s catalogue and sold out nationwide.

“I’m lucky to have a job I love,” Gayle says. “I don’t know where the time has gone.”

The good news for Gayle’s fans? She’s taking her chocolate-making operation with her when she moves, meaning customers will still be able to purchase their favorite artisanal chocolate, truffles and more at gayleschocolates.com and in a retail store she will open in Cottonwood, Ariz.

Gayle’s is expected to close its Royal Oak store after Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 13. Furniture, fixtures, ribbon, packaging and molds will be sold that weekend.

For more information, visit gayleschocolates.com, call (248) 398-0001, or stop by the retail store at 417 S. Washington Ave. in Royal Oak.

Robin Schwartz

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