100 years later, Donckers still sweet


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Driving down Washington Street, it’s hard to miss the great views, beautiful old architecture and unique shops and restaurants. But there’s one place that has been a staple to the scenic view since 1896: Donckers.

“Anything sweet in Marquette, you think of Donckers,” said chocolatier and soda jerk manager Quentin Stewart. Chocolatiers are people who make sweets from chocolate and soda jerks are people who make phosphates — an old fashioned soda.

What started out as a simple stand selling candies, fruit, tobacco and popcorn, grew into an ice cream and candy shop, luncheonette and soda jerk by 1914. The place remained this way until financial problems forced it to shut down every operation except the fudge and sweets in 1970. That is, until local businessman and developer Tom Viar purchased it last year.

“Tom and his family breathed new life into the old business,” Stewart said.

Viar shut Donckers down from January until July of this year in order to bring back the luncheonette, ice cream and soda jerk. Customers can get the soda flavors they’re used to, like Coke, root beer, and orange, but for those wanting something different, there’s also vanilla, chocolate or the green river, a lime flavored soda.

Other than sodas, Donckers offers a host of specialty sundaes, like the NMU Wildcat. Every sundae has a choice of regular or premium ice cream. Customers can also combine their drink and dessert with an ice cream soda. The soda jerk can add any phosphates to two scoops of regular or premium ice cream.

The menu has also been changed beyond sodas and sundaes to include typical lunches, such as sandwiches. Although customers can no longer get old favorites like an olive and tongue or pimento and cheese sandwich, they do offer plenty of new ones, like the Reuben and the chicken and prosciutto. Donckers keeps the menu high quality by making homemade bread for the sandwiches and noodles for the chicken noodle soup daily.

But if you do want a taste of the past, Donckers offers liverwurst and tomato, as well as olive and nut sandwiches from the original menu.

“(The olive and nut sandwhich is) like an adult peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” says Stewart.

Even with all the changes, Donckers has still kept the same atmosphere that customers like senior chemistry major Caity Cienkus liked about the old place.

“The owner was so nice to us,” Cienkus says. “He gave us a few samples of things we were interested in and chatted with us the whole time we were there.”

Junior nursing major Ally Anderson has been buying her chocolates from Donckers for years. Even when she was attending Michigan State University, she would still bring friends up to Marquette on holidays and they would go to Donckers for chocolate and fudge.

“I love their angel mints,” she says. “They’re chocolate, they’re mint, they’re amazing.”

And for 112 years, customers like Anderson have been coming to Donckers to get their sweet fix.