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Church Hill gets a golden ticket

Michael Thompson March 6, 2014 1
Chocolatier Kate Hines at Chocolates by Kelly at 5047 Forest Hill Ave.

Chocolatier Kate Hines at Chocolates by Kelly at 5047 Forest Hill Ave.

A fifth-generation chocolatier has found a sweet spot for her second Richmond location.

Kelly Walker, owner of Chocolates by Kelly, plans to open a new storefront at 600 N. 29th St. in Church Hill.

Walker, who opened her first chocolate shop in 2008 in Forest Hill, signed a one-year-lease for the 700-square-foot Church Hill space in February. She has $10,000 of her personal savings budgeted to open in the spring.

“Church Hill has a lot of food lovers and that’s who we’re making chocolate for,” Walker said.

For the last five years, Walker has been selling her handmade chocolates inside a space she shares with taZa Coffee ‘n Creme at 5047 Forest Hill Ave. Walker had previously shared the space with Blanchard’s Coffee Co.

Owner Kelly Walker and chocolatier Kate Hinesh.

Owner Kelly Walker and chocolatier Kate Hines.

Walker is just latest member of her family to deal in sweets. A great-great-great uncle made gummy candy for the Philadelphia-based Wunderle Candy Company, which in the late 19th century first put candy corn into commercial production.

In 1996, when Walker was 19, she took a trip from North Carolina to Philadelphia to learn the family trade from her mother, grandmother and an aunt. Over the course of a few days spent in the kitchen, Walker learned how to properly crystallize chocolate so it comes out “shiny and with a snap,” how to make buttercreams and how to make caramel.

“Those have been the building blocks,” Walker said.

After returning from her educational trip, Walker, now 36, worked a string of jobs but always with the intention of opening a shop of her own. She said working in restaurants, insurance and banking taught her how to run a business.

“Whenever I was off, I was making candy,” Walker said. “That’s why I learned how to make chocolate without machines. I didn’t have any.”

She eventually got to the point where she could sell her batches of sweets wholesale to Blanchard’s Coffee Co. When she felt she had learned all she could about how to go about running a business, she set up in 2008 alongside her former customer.

Chocolates by Kelly are handmade and come in a range of flavors from sea-salt caramel to liqueur cordials. Boxes of 12 sell for $18. Each year, Walker and chocolatier Kate Hines make between 140,000 to 150,000 pieces of chocolate inside their Forest Hill kitchen.

The pending arrival of Chocolates by Kelly is just the latest sign that things in the Church Hill neighborhood are getting a little more saccharine.

Urban Set Bride, a bridal boutique for women, opened last week next door to where Walker is setting up shop. Other recent food-related openings in the neighborhood include Sub Rosa, Union Market and Urban Farmhouse Market and Café.

Though she comes by the chocolate trade rightly, Walker said she is first in her family to do so as a small-business owner.

“I’ve taken it a different direction than what my grandmother taught me,” Walker said. “I go with flavors that are unique to the American scene.”

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One Comment »

  1. Sam McDonald March 6, 2014 at 8:23 am - Reply

    Those chocolates are awesome! Good luck to her as she jumps the River.

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