GOLCONDA, IL – One business has been making life sweeter in southern Illinois for the past 40 years. The staff’s passion for creating fun and tasty sweets brings people to the Chocolate Factory from all around the country.

Tucked inside Shawnee National Forest sits a southern Illinois staple. Staff work to mix, make and paint the sweet treats.

“A little ghost coming out of the tower,” said Rebecca Brandon, showing off the intricate designs on a chocolate bar before wrapping it up for sale on the shelves. Brandon’s getting the Halloween treats ready for the shelf. It keeps her and the staff busy, but she says that kind of rush is nothing.

“This is a little bit compared to Christmas and the holiday season,” Brandon said.

Linda Meherg spends her days inside working with her family. She helped create the Chocolate Factory with her friends 40 years ago. They aimed to capitalize on the chocolate demand in southern Illinois, and they did, but Meherg said they didn’t know just how much work it would be.

“We just took off like three nutty people, you know? We were having fun, and we did. We enjoyed it,” she said.  Meherg bought the shop out in the ’80s, and it’s been in the family ever since.

“Mondays I don’t like to miss, because I see my sister — Becky’s here, Angela and Tina, all on that day,” Meherg said.

Despite its spot in the forest, the Chocolate Factory is a destination for people in the area and around the country.

“We get a lot of tourists through here. So, there’s people that may come from Florida, Hawaii, a lot of different places,” Meherg said. It takes more than five tons of chocolate each year for the folks at the Chocolate Factory to make up all the sweet treats families buy. They’ve got new customers and regulars who buy their sweets there.

“And we’ve met a lot of nice people, we really have,” Meherg said. Working with family has made the work easy, and she hopes it stays that way after she steps back.

“I really hope they do, because you know, we started from the very beginning. There was nothing here but a field,” Meherg said. From that field, to fine chocolates, they’re getting ready to renovate again. Still going strong after 40 years, the shop has found its recipe for success.

The Chocolate Factory opened in 1977. The spot celebrated its 40th anniversary in September. For more information, visit the Chocolate Factory website or the Facebook page.