In 1906, a young Lebanese immigrant named Joseph Sayklly pursued the American dream by opening his own shop on Ludington Street in Escanaba in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Sayklly's carried a small line of groceries, including homemade candy and ice cream. Together with his wife, Mary, and their nine children, Joe built Sayklly's into a thriving local landmark. Folks stopped by to take home a bag of Sayklly's famous candy or lingered at the soda fountain to savor treats made with hand-cranked ice cream (and maybe flirt with a sweetheart). Some of the biggest sellers in the early days, like peanut brittle, hand-pulled saltwater taffy, hand-dipped chocolates and fudge, are still sold today.
When Joe died in 1943, Mary maintained the business with the help of her children Josephine, Angeline, Sister Martha Jean, Louise, Fred, Marge, Liz, Ed and Marie. In 1959, Fred moved the candy-making enterprise to Third Avenue North and left the store under the ownership of Josephine and Marge. At this time there was a formal division of the family business between wholesale and retail. Today the production and wholesale business, owned by Mike and Cheryl Kobasic, is known as Sayklly's Candies and the retail business as Sayklly's Confectionery and Gifts, owned by Jim and Debbie Kirby. Mike is the son of Angeline and Debbie is the daughter of Marie.
Around 1960, Sayklly's stopped selling groceries and started carrying exclusive gift items, along with an expanded selection of premium candies. The soda fountain closed in 1969, and Mary Sayklly died that same year. Josephine and Marge carried on the family tradition of sharing their father's delicious candies, and his love of practical jokes. Every April Fool's Day, Joe, and later Marge, would surprise customers with free samples of candy that were actually garlic flavored or squares of chocolate-covered snuff!
Three generations later, Joe Sayklly's descendants are still here using old-country recipes to make candies that have become an Upper Peninsula tradition. In 1983, Sayklly's Confectionery and Gifts was taken over by Jim and Debbie Kirby. Debbie is the granddaughter of Joe and Mary Sayklly. She has worked in the candy store since she was "old enough to walk," and becoming proprietor of Sayklly's was a life-long dream. The Kirbys continue to offer locals and visitors the U.P.'s best chocolates and candies, along with high-quality gifts sure to dazzle and delight. This family legacy carries on into the fourth generation as Jim and Debbie's children and nieces now work in the store.