The latest addition to Elmira’s downtown, Martin Lewis Confectionery, is a cross between an old-fashioned general store and a high-end chocolate shop.
Run by Stephanie Kazdan, the confectionery opened in December and has virtually anything you’d need to satisfy a sweet tooth.
“I started with the things that I like and then I wanted to carry things that other people didn’t carry just to have different items and more specialty, higher-end items,” Kazdan said. “I did a lot of taste testing and figured the things I wanted to carry. The fudge, for example, that was a fun hunt. I ended up finding a Mennonite family in Varney that had just opened up a restaurant there. So they make the fudge for me.”
She became a certified chocolatier through Ecole Chocolat last year while recovering from surgery. Unable to return to her previous occupation as a funeral director, she decided to put her chocolatier certification to good use.
“I wanted to create something for myself to be able to have that work-life balance and spend time with my son. They’re all important years, but I want that time with him. This will give that flexibility to do that,” Kazdan said.
There’s definitely a science behind chocolate making, which suits her well as she has a scientific type of personality, she says. You have to be careful about the temperature when tempering the chocolate and even the humidity in the air.
She notes it’s important for her to use as many local products as possible, whether it’s selling items made locally or using local ingredients in her chocolates.
“I make some of the truffles. And then we’ll see as time goes if I can make some more because I’m still learning. There are other items that are handmade, just not by me,” Kazdan said.
This is her first foray into running her own business. She says she’s always wanted to have her own business in the confectionery industry. It took about six months from the time she decided she was going to go for it to the actual opening of the store.
“I had to make the decision quick because I couldn’t go back to my other job and obviously I have to work so I figured now is the best time to try that,” Kazdan said.
A resident of Mount Forest, she said she wanted the store to be in a small town, but Mount Forest was a bit too small.
“I think Elmira’s the right fit for this type of store. There’s nothing like it here or that I know of even close by. It is close enough to places like Kitchener, Waterloo that maybe people will come this way,” Kazdan said.
And so far, business has been good. December was busy with people coming in to buy treats for the holidays. She also did her first corporate order for the company who made her store’s sign. She notes she can do custom orders for things like corporate events or weddings, with two weeks’ notice.
“There’s been a lot of interest just in people seeing it’s a new store and wanting to poke their head in and see what I have, which is nice. A lot of the local businesses, they’ve been really supportive. They’ve at least come in and introduced themselves. Many of them have purchased things,” Kazdan said.
The back wall lined with glass containers of jelly beans, bonbons, and gummy candies has been a big hit with her younger customers.
“The bulk candy is popular, especially with the kids. They can come in with their 50 cents and still get a little bag of candy because it’s two cents a gram, which they like. Most of them don’t run around with lots of money in their pockets. I tried to get that idea of a penny candy kind of concept where back in the day you’d go into the store and you could buy a lot of stuff for 5 cents,” Kazdan said.
For those unfamiliar with bonbons, they’re a candy imported from the UK. They’re chewy like a toffee and come in a range of flavors. The blackcurrant is particularly popular in the UK, but difficult to find here.
“You can get carried away eating those. I think that’s where that saying comes from ‘sitting in front of the TV eating bonbons’ because suddenly they’re all gone,” Kazdan said.
Handmade chocolates have been popular, and gelato too – even though it’s winter. She expects the gelato, sorbetto, and ice cream to be big sellers in the summer months, and she plans to be open later to accommodate for that.
She also has 72 different kinds of salt water taffy, which you can mix and match with the bulk candy.
“For 100 grams you’d be looking at $2. Some things are heavier than others. It just depends what you pick,” Kazdan explains.
For those looking to keep their diet organic, she offers organic chocolates, hot chocolate, and loose leaf tea.
She also carries the Pop Shoppe pops along with pineapple and peach flavors of Canada Dry, and cherry and vanilla cola. The fudge, gelato, sorbetto, and ice cream flavors are regularly rotated to keep things interesting.
“The chocolates are made to reflect the seasonal taste. Things are changing with the seasons,” Kazdan said.
The shop is named after her late father who passed away in 2014. As a way of honouring his memory she’s included personal items in the store’s decor and created chocolates based on his favourite sweets.
She’s now looking for a part-time employee who could work some daytime hours and open the shop when she can’t make the drive from Mount Forest due to bad weather.
You can check out her full range of products on Facebook, Instagram, and www.martinlewisconfectionery.com