- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - It’s the sweetest news you’ll read all day: There’s a new candy store on Muncie’s northwest side.

Chocolate Paradise opened earlier this spring with big dreams and sweet ideas, including a goal of being the go-to place in town to find top-tier chocolates.

Owned by Chris Whittenburg, a Muncie native now living in Texas, Chocolate Paradise offers a variety of homemade goods, including caramels and truffles, both of which are made by store employees. Whittenburg couldn’t be reached for this story, but according to store manager Kristie Green, Chocolate Paradise will serve a multitude of functions in the area.

“We are more than a chocolate or a candy store,” Green said. “We cater events and put together (wedding packages). … We’re not a boutique, but we do offer a lot of locally-made products and have a community-minded focus, too.”

Since opening in March, the business has been off to a bit of a slow start, she said, adding that it’s picked up a lot in recent weeks. Green said “word of mouth type of exposure, along with the overflow of from (other stores in the strip mall), have brought a lot of people in.”

For Charlene Rogers, the store’s in-house “chocolatier,” the job was one she couldn’t pass up. Rogers graduated from Ivy Tech earlier this spring and she said she has a goal of opening her own chocolate or sweets shop later in her career.

“This was a great way for me to (get started) and show what I can do,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to more challenges and ideas.”

Among those ideas, Green said, is what’s called “chocolate painting.” That is, the painting of a colorized cocoa butter onto individual pieces of chocolate.

“It’s something I think we’ll be one of the first to offer here in Muncie,” Green said. “We have a few great candy stores in the area; Lowery’s and Concannon’s offer great things and it’s great to see other local stores. But I think we fill a niche when it comes to high-end chocolates.”

According to Green and Rogers, there are plans to provide homemade assorted chocolates in the near future. Several of the candies available at Chocolate Paradise are provided by two high-end distributors. The store also carries Jelly Belly products.

“We want to be a place for people to get high-end chocolate goods - including the special, hand-dipped things like strawberries - any time of the year,” Green said. “We have a large variety of truffles so far and we are hoping to see that continue with our other products.”

The truffles, all of which are made by Rogers, are some of the store’s biggest sellers. Chocolate Paradise also features locally made soaps and other handcrafted products.

“We are really ramping up our production here, so we’ve been reaching out trying to partner with other people and businesses,” Green said. “It’s something we are trying to do a lot of - we want to keep the small-town, local feel to this place, regardless of how ‘big’ we get.”

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Source: The (Muncie) Star Press, http://tspne.ws/1GdBXFK

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Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com

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