|"It's scary opening your own business. But, if I knew how much fun it would be, I'd have done it 20 years ago," said Rick Hughey, who with his wife Mary opened The Chocolate Box in Hermann in February, 2004.
Rick has been making chocolate since the late 1990s, but he never made it in the kind of volume he does now. Mostly, he made chocolates for gifts to family and friends. The seed to make chocolates was planted while the Hugheys lived in Florida. A chocolatier in the area had a shop that featured huge cases overflowing with chocolates. Rick was in awe that anyone could produce so many chocolates, only to find out they were purchased from other sources. Rick was devastated.
"That started Rick's ambition to do it right," said Mary. The first thing he did was create his own recipes. "He dreams them up in his sleep," she said. First he starts with only the highest quality ingredients. "I learned early that the quality is the most important thing," explained Rick. He uses the finest essences and oils he can find, purchases whole nuts and then crushes them because they are fresher that way, and blends chocolates to create a unique and richer product. Rick said he does anything he can to make his product more unique than anyone else's.
The best sellers by far are the pecan turtles. "We have a massive variation on the turtle theme," said Rick, who makes candy every day. The cases at the shop usually feature about 48 different chocolates and specialty items from his collection of about 120 different recipes. The season of the year also determines what Rick makes. In summer, white chocolate, fruit items, and peppermint flavors are popular. In fall, anything with nuts, toffees, and brittles sell well.
The shop has been a success, and locals are delighted that the Hugheys got tired of the Florida hurricanes and the high cost of living and decided to move to Hermann. "We were ready to get out of the fast-paced life," they agreed. Mary said she wanted to come back home, although she had never lived here. "But, I felt this absolute pull to come to Hermann," she said, because her mother, who was born and lived here until the age of 11, talked about Hermann all her life.
The Almost Famous chocolate shop is open every day. Rick said they would become famous only if Al Roker, of "The Today Show" fame, should happen to drop in. Until then, the Hugheys just want it to be fun. "I'm trying to keep it like Grandma would make, I'm not in competition with Bissinger's," said Rick.
All of the candy at The Chocolate Box is sold by weight, all at the same price. Their motto is "Don't diet . . . just buy it." Customers get a kick out of reading about the three ways to eat chocolate and not gain weight that are posted above the display cases.
For a quick pick-me-up or to purchase chocolates for a special occasion, stop by The Chocolate Box at 310 Market St. Hours are 11-4 weekdays and 11-3 weekends. But Rick said they are willing to open up the shop any time he and Mary are available if you call them at 573-291-6107.