Business news from the Fredericksburg region.
Spice Rack chocolates opens store
BY CATHY JETT
Imagine being able to create your very own chocolate bar.
Would you start with milk chocolate or dark? Add a dash of smoky chipotle or perhaps a tart dollop of lemon?
Beginning in early August, shoppers at Spotsylvania Towne Centre will get to place a custom order for just such bars, watch as they’re being created and then pick them up once they’ve cooled.
That’s just one of the many treats Spotsylvania County entrepreneurs Mary and Paul Schellhammer will have in store when they open their first Spice Rack Chocolates shop in an 1,800-square-foot space next to Starbucks in the mall. It was formerly a Sbarro.
“I want to make it the place that everybody thinks of when they want something chocolate,” Mary Schellhammer said. “It will be the go-to place for chocolate.”
The shop will have a glass partition so customers can watch her and her staff as they make the same Spice Rack chocolates they sell online at spicerackchocolates.com and to other retailers. These include candies flavored with fresh lemon and sweet basil, and Fire Antz, which are dark chocolate chipotle peanuts.
They’ll also make and sell some chocolates that will be available only at the shop. Possibilities include the chocolate-covered peanut-butter cups Mary Schellhammer loves to make for her son Cameron, a rising senior at the University of Virginia.
“They’re his favorite treat,” she said.
Even more interestingunique chocolates will be available at a “creation station,” where customers can order either a milk- or dark-chocolate bar customized with their choice of two of 40 toppings.
“They can make their own bars for weddings, baby showers, graduation,” Schellhammer said. “We’ll make it for them, but they’ll choose the toppings.”
There also will be a 12-foot-long bulk candy counter where customers can find the kinds of upscale chocolates that the Schellhammers seekseeks out on their travels but can’t find here.
Most stores carry the same brands of chocolates because it’s easier for them to place large orders with one company than to work with many small vendors, she explained. But that limits consumers’ options.
“I think Fredericksburg is ready for upscale chocolate,” Schellhammer said.
The petite blonde didn’t start out to become a chocolatier. Instead she turned a high school job working at Pic’n’ Pay Shoes into a career, becoming the youngest manager in the company’s history when she was only 18.
From there she went into sales for the National Center of Nutrition, and then moved to the Fredericksburg area in 1991 to sell copiers. After 15 years of putting all her energy into working for someone else, she started My Extra Hands, a personal chef service.
It was the unique, herb- and spice-flavored chocolates that she left behind after cooking sessions and parties that inspired her current business. Clients loved them so much that they asked her to make more so they could give them as gifts.
Schellhammer did some research and product development, and transformed My Extra Hands into Spice Rack Chocolates in 2006. Her products won the biennial Virginia Food & Beverage Expo’s Best New Product award in 2008 and 2010, and she participated in the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Accessing International Markets program in 2009.
Her husband, Paul Schellhammer, eventually joined the company as chief financial officer and works with her to develop new flavor combinations.
Spice Rack Chocolates are currently being made in a plant in the Five Mile Center off State Route 3 in Spotsylvania. The Schellhammers’ lease on the building is up this summer, and Mary Schellhammer said she’s going to notify Olivia Wilson, the promotions & marketing coordinator for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, that a fully inspected facility will be available. Someone might want to move a home-based food business there, she said.
If their new shop proves successful in the next 12 to 15 months, the Schellhammers are considering opening more.
“This will be the flagship,” Mary Schellhammer said. “We might go to Potomac Mills or Richmond.”
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407