Finding the right holiday gift can be a challenge, whether shopping for a friend, relative or business colleague. But if there’s one thing that pleases almost everyone — it’s chocolate! Have you ever met anyone who didn’t like chocolate?
Today, local gourmet sweet shops have turned chocolate candy making into a high class art, with a variety of signature creations for special events. There are many decorative and whimsical chocolate sculptures including holiday-themed works that make you want to enjoy looking at them for a while before digging in.
Deborah Ann’s Sweet Shoppe, in downtown Ridgefield, is an old-fashioned sweet shop and ice cream parlor. The candy fantasy store features over 70 different kinds of chocolate, both homemade and imported, as well as a variety of gifts for every age. Special holiday sculptures include a chocolate snowman, Santa, and the Nutcracker.
The ice cream parlor in a separate room serves ice cream freshly made on the premises and the charming setting is straight out of the 1940s — chrome tables with vinyl tops and the classic curved wrought iron ice cream parlor chairs.
The owners, who personally run the business, are Deborah Backus and her husband, Michael, originally started on a different career path. They met at Yale, both studying to become lawyers. After graduation and marriage they both worked in New York, Deb as an attorney at a New York law firm and Mike as a legal aid for a talent agency. But 20 years ago, they both decided they were ready for a change and their entrepreneurial spirit prevailed. They both had had retail experience and enjoyed meeting people, and Deb had fond childhood memories of her mother making chocolate candy in various molds in the kitchen.
Consequently, they started the Sweet Shoppe in Ridgefield. Mike became the first chocolate maker after taking appropriate culinary courses, and Deb’s mother was part of the original team. Today, they employ two in-house chocolatiers. They moved from their original location to Main Street ten years ago and when space became available for rent next door, they seized the opportunity to create the ice cream parlor and quickly learned how to make ice cream. They recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Sweet Shoppe in Ridgefield.
Chocolate Works Darien, located in the Good Wives Shopping Center, carries custom chocolates for special occasions or corporate gifts with the business logo included as part of the design. “We have been having a great time putting smiles on the faces of local community members,” says Meredith Scheine, co-owner with her husband, Greg. The store is also a great place to host children’s birthday parties, corporate events for staff or clients, ladies nights, and pop-in workshops.
The couple opened their store three years ago. “Greg has always been an entrepreneur and I had a background as an elementary school teacher,” Meredith explains. “When we heard that a Chocolate Works franchise was available in Connecticut, it seemed like an ideal opportunity — a good fit for both of us.”
The store’s chocolatiers, Nikki-Lynn Vincoli and Marybel Giraldo, have been making chocolate creations for over 15 years. “We love working with chocolate because we’re making works of art that you can eat,” Vincoli says.
Another destination for holiday chocolate gifts is Palmer’s Market in Darien’s Noroton Heights shopping center. Of special interest are a variety of Advent calendars, including one designed for children. When you open the little doors for each December date, you are rewarded with a festively wrapped piece of chocolate candy, which appeals to children and adults alike. Sheets of chocolate peppermint bark, non-pareils, and foil-wrapped chocolate Santas, snowmen, and tin soldiers are also popular holiday gift items and stocking stuffers.