Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and one’s thoughts often turn to love, romance, chocolate and, well, sometimes, even more chocolate.
That’s where Cindy Jex, owner of the Barker Chocolate Box, steps in. A self-professed night owl, Jex works until dawn some days whipping up a wide variety of classic and creative confections sure to appeal to all.
Her personal favorites?
“As far as the fudge, probably the raspberry fudge or raspberry truffle fudge,” she said. “There’s also the dark chocolate caramel with sea salt, and the elderberry/apple pie, that I make in honor of my dad.
“I like all of it,” she said. “We want to be different than the other chocolate companies, so when we go to events, we put out a wonderful spread, and people compliment us on it.”
Having just left the Main Place Mall in Buffalo after a one-year stint, Jex opened the Old City Hall Tea Parlor in November at 2 Pine St., Lockport, in the former Lockport City Hall dating back to the 1800s and overlooking the historic Flight of Five Locks on the Erie Canal. It’s much closer to her Barker home.
Jex’s confections are available for sale in the Tea Parlor, on her website,by calling her at 572-4940, and at various local events throughout the year.
With just a few days left until Valentine’s Day, Jex recently took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her sweet business.
How did you get started?
My daughter was working in the shoe department at the Bon-Ton in Lockport and she told people I made the best homemade cookies. I made her some to take in, and Bon-Ton had me make these big homemade sugar cookies to give their employees each time they got someone to open a charge account. I still have clients from the Bon-Ton.
You have classic items like peanut butter cups and barks and truffles, but you also make goat milk fudge and hot cayenne pepper fudge – how do you come up with these ideas?
I just come up with goofy ideas and wing it.
The goat milk fudge is hard to find, but it’s much gentler on your stomach, if you have any kind of allergies. I know, because we used to raise goats. Our goat milk fudge melts in your mouth. The cayenne pepper fudge is awesome and gives you a bite in the back of your throat.
What would you say your signature items are?
Our peanut butter cups are big sellers, our bonbons are big sellers – we have a red velvet cream cheese and a champagne and chocolate bonbon for Valentine’s Day. Our chocolate frozen bananas are popular, and we have a peanut butter cup in a cone. We make crunches, barks, truffles and baked goods, too.
What do you offer at the Old City Hall Tea Parlor?
We offer high tea, low tea and a spot of tea. We’re open seven days a week, usually noon to 7 p.m. Our high tea includes: salad, tea sandwiches, scones and cookies, chocolates and a glass of dessert wine from Flight of Five Winery (located in the same building). Our low tea includes all of this without the salad and wine, while the spot of tea is hot tea and a dessert. Our teas are American Classic Tea, grown in South Carolina. We take reservations and walk-ins.
We also have a variety of desserts and chocolates for sale there.
Where else would people see your products?
We do many events throughout the year (as well as wedding and other party favors and gift boxes). We just did the “Chocolate Affair” at the Hyatt Regency in Buffalo, and we’ll be doing the Niagara Wine Trail’s “Be Mine With Wine” (Friday through next Sunday) pairing our chocolates with Flight of Five Winery’s wines. If you start your winery visits there, you can enter into a drawing for one of our chocolate baskets.
We’re an associate member of the Niagara Wine Trail, which really helps put me on the map, and now I’m right next to Flight of Five Winery, so I’m in a good location. I’m excited.
On March 6, we’ll be with Flight of Five Winery at SEAsonings at the Niagara Falls Aquarium and on March 8, we’re holding a Community Bridal Pampered Chef event at the Tea Parlor, to give brides a chance to stock their pantries. We’re going to do a Wine, Cheese and Chocolate fundraiser on May 4 at the Tea Parlor for Relay of Life and Blossoms of Hope. I also always do the Celtic Festival in Olcott in September.
Do you really stay up all night making your products?
We have a separate building on our property across from our home, which is closely inspected. I’ll go out there and work from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. It’s a quieter time. I just turn my music on and do my own thing. Apparently, I don’t need a lot of sleep. It’s fun. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing it.
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