Chocolatiers carry out family dreams
It’s hard to imagine how you can improve on a chocolate assortment – unless, of course, you packaged it in an edible chocolate container.
Though it may sound like an impossible dream, it’s everyday reality at Stella’s Fine Chocolates in Bedford, where mother-daughter co-owners Elaine Alexander and Lydia Lauzier can craft just about anything out of chocolate.
Lauzier took some time away from melting, molding and dipping to tell us about the most unusual items they’ve made, why they started making edible containers and who the Stella is in Stella’s Fine Chocolates.
Here’s part of the conversation:
Q: How long have you been in business? What inspired you to get started?
A: Stella’s Fine Chocolates has been in business for a little over three years – since February 2009. I was looking for something to do outside of the home now that my boys were getting older. My mother was semi-retired and needed something to keep her busy, so here we are.
Q: How did you come up with the name for your business?
A: We came up with the name Stella’s because of my mother’s grandmother and my great-grandmother. Her name was Stella; she was born in 1893 and always made candy for the children as a treat. She taught us to make candy and always wanted to have her own small shop, but never could. So, when we decided to open a chocolate shop, our first thought was to name it “Stella’s.”
Q: What is your educational and professional background?
A: I have been fortunate to learn chocolate-making techniques from several accomplished chocolatiers in the New England area. My mother has an extensive background in the business field.
Q: Are the chocolates made on the premises? How often are chocolates made?
A: We make some of our chocolates here, but we are limited by this facility. We make barks, Christmas candy, caramels, dipped items and truffles. We do moldings for specialty items and make items to order. We always have something in the works.
Q: How do you come up with new items? What is the process for creating a new treat for the store?
A: We never stop thinking of new ideas. Salty and sweet and chocolate with heat are very popular right now. Oftentimes, people will come looking for items they have seen on one of the cooking channels. We are constantly looking for that dynamic contrast (how texture changes in the mouth). Coming up with the perfect flavor combination and then matching the right chocolate with that flavor is the fun part. We are working on a red velvet truffle right now that has been a challenge. Our customers inspire us when they ask for something special or tell us about something they have seen elsewhere. We had Guinness truffles a while back that were amazing.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of creating edible containers for your chocolates?
A: Edible containers are Stella’s way of going green. Our chocolate bowls in milk, dark or white chocolate filled with an assortment of chocolates are our biggest corporate gift. We also offer a chocolate box filled with an assortment of chocolates.
Q: What are some of your most popular items?
A: Our most popular items are sea salt caramels and butter almond toffee.
Q: What are some of your most unique items?
A: We have many unique items that you would not find everywhere. We have a dark chocolate bark with cayenne pepper, pumpkin seeds and cranberries – wonderful with a glass of wine. We also have almonds in a French dark chocolate with raw sugar and sea salt. We have a large selection of toffees, including a white chocolate macadamia nut toffee with cranberries.
Q: Do you collaborate with any other New Hampshire businesses on gift baskets or other offerings?
A: We work closely with our customers to offer them creative gift baskets and edible chocolate presentations. We have a “Made in NH” basket that is a favorite for out-of-town wedding guests. We also do fabulous wedding favors. We do a chocolate lobster bake plate in the summer that is very popular.
Q: What are some of the most unusual custom orders you’ve filled?
A: We created a centerpiece to celebrate the opening night of “The Nutcracker” ballet at the Palace Theatre. We made a special centerpiece for Miss New Hampshire’s trunk party before she left to compete in the Miss America pageant. Both of these can be viewed on our website.
We had a request for snails and penguins as wedding favors – that was definitely unique, but they were fabulous. We are currently filling an order for pigs that will be crated and wrapped and presented as favors. We do our best to fulfill our customers’ visions – no matter how unusual they are. I actually enjoy the challenge of the unusual.
Q: What are your busiest times of year?
A: Naturally, Christmas is our busiest time, followed closely by Valentine’s Day and Easter. We also find that the end of the school year is very busy, with teacher appreciation gifts.