- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

CUMMING, Ga. (AP) - Little did Laura Curtis Ratana know when she created her first marshmallow in 2012 that she would soon be selling the handmade fluffy treats from a storefront in north Forsyth.

Curtis Ratana, A Culinary Institute of America graduate, was working as a chef in New Jersey when she made a raspberry-hibiscus marshmallow and sandwiched it between two dark chocolate shortbread cookies for a post-work snack.

“I always loved marshmallows because I grew up as a Girl Scout and would go to Lake Michigan in the summers, and there would be S’mores and bonfires,” Curtis Ratana said. “I’d never tried making a marshmallow before. I knew I needed something light and sweet just to end the day with after work, so I started experimenting with it.”

When Curtis Ratana and her husband, Paris Ratana, moved to Georgia in 2013 to open a restaurant, the couple found themselves revisiting the marshmallow experiments.

They put the idea of a marshmallow business on Kickstarter, and Malvi Marshmallow Confections was born.

“We met our funding goals and got some really great feedback from our first shipments,” she said. “So we started producing the mallows, and we officially became a business in 2013, after the Kickstarter campaign, and started selling Malvi to local boutique stores in the Atlanta area and through our online store.”

Malvi - a shortened version of “malvavisco,” Spanish for marshmallow - was the term suggested by Paris Ratana for the name of the company and its signature marshmallow sandwiches.

With the creation of the business, customers could order Malvis for snacking or in custom combinations for events and flavors like raspberry hibiscus, peppermint chocolate, chocolate, salted caramel and spiked espresso varieties.

Malvi’s popularity grew until the business was able meet their customers face-to-face by opening their first store on May 6 in northern Forsyth County.

“It’s been really fun to actually open the doors and watch people walk in and see their faces as they taste something new and hear the immediate feedback,” Curtis Ratana said. “It’s been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s been really encouraging and great to get that feedback and interaction.”

Since opening the store - which shares a wall with Lake Burrito, a restaurant owned and operated by Curtis Ratana’s sisters-in-law - Malvi has expanded their in-store treats to include handmade ice cream and Seattle-based Stumptown Coffee and has provided north Forsyth with a family-owned business that is unique to the area.

“We live in the area as well as our family, and we want to see something beyond chains and big box shops here,” she said. “We’ve seen it work with Lake Burrito. We are invested in the area ourselves, and we want to see the place we live in have cool things that we’d want to go to.”

Malvi products are all-natural, and the business has created a presence in the north Georgia area through ingredients partnerships with local businesses such as Warbington Farms and Mountain Fresh Creamery.

“We try to serve high-quality everything when it comes to our all-natural marshmallows and ice cream,” said Ethan Rivers, a Malvi employee. “We work with a local dairy farm to get all of our milk for our ice cream or coffee. We use Mountain Fresh Creamery in Cleveland, Georgia. So we try to use as many products locally in the north Georgia area as we can.”

The company also employs local young adults. Due to the company’s small size and family ownership, these employees have the opportunity to learn about all aspects of a company and to interact with north Forsyth customers.

“Compared to other corporate jobs that I have held in the past, it is a much more personable and fulfilling job,” said Adam Petrey, who also works at the store. “I can help have an impact on a community, have conversations with people who come in and foster relationships with people.”

The original Malvis are still the signature menu item, with the addition of new berry tropical, fluffernutter and cotton candy jumbo marshmallows. The treats are unique because of the ultra-rich flavor that is contained in their light texture.

“A basic marshmallow isn’t too hard. You just heat up syrup, add some gelatin and whip it,” Curtis Ratana said. “The trick and the way I challenge myself is to add a lot of flavor to the marshmallows because once you incorporate that air into the marshmallow the flavor dissipates.”

Malvi is also creating new ice cream desserts, such as the cotton candy sundae and the café affogato, which is a scoop of ice cream topped with a shot of espresso. The store also offers a variety of coffee beverages.

With the new store and new treats, Malvi’s owners plan on expanding the business even further.

Ideas such as seasonal sorbets flavored with fruit from Warbington farms, holiday gift packaging and S’mores kits are in progress, and the business is always experimenting with new marshmallow flavors and confections.

For more information on Malvi Marshmallow Confections, visit malvimallow.com or visit the Malvi store at 3040 Keith Bridge Road in Cumming.

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Information from: Forsyth County News, https://www.forsythnews.com/

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