Couple open a store, and how sweet it is Candy: At their Mount Airy store, the Schultzes make candy in all sizes and shapes. You can even watch them do it.

December 25, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A small store in Mount Airy stocks tools, golf clubs and computers -- and it's all edible.

"We can make anything you want in chocolate," said Richard M. Schultz, who opened the Chocolate Treasure Chest with his wife, Mary, a year ago.

Candy-making is done on site, in plain view of shoppers passing by the store in the Peacock Center along Route 27. Cooking near a window attracts crowds.

"Children often press against the glass to watch," Mary Schultz said. "I clean windows quite often."

Richard Schultz cooks the fudge in a 40-pound kettle, and his wife mixes chocolate at a huge vat and pumper station.

As if the scents of chocolate cooking were not enough to tempt shoppers, an antique soda fountain fills the back of the shop, serving up shakes, sundaes and floats.

"I come here for the orange sherbet; it's the only place," said Lori Favreault.

The fountain, manufactured in the 1940s in Chicago, is handcrafted from one piece of steel. The couple still use its stamped and numbered porcelain containers for ice cream; even the original rubber seals are intact.

At the fountain's double-pull tap, servers can mix with a fine jet spray or a faucet flow. A three-beater mixer, circa 1942, makes thick shakes.

An oak backboard frames the fountain. Soft green marble from Frederick County forms the counter tops.

Candy-making started as a hobby several years ago for the Schultzes. Then, it was a part-time job. They made and sold their products at an old-fashioned general store in New Market. She took culinary courses from a chef for a well-known chocolate manufacturer.

Every chocolate chef has a signature taste; each tempers and mixes in his or her own way, Mary Schultz said. Quality chocolate has a sheen and should snap softly when broken.

"I know my chocolate," she said. "I can pick your chocolate out from all the others, even with my eyes closed."

ZTC When the New Market store closed two years ago, the Schultzes were left with piles of popular recipes and costly equipment.

"We had equipment sitting in our garage, and Mary getting up at 4: 30 a.m. to commute to a job in Virginia," Richard Schultz said. "It was time to try our own business."

They kept their day jobs, hired a manager and pulled their two children into the business.

Seventeen-year-old Eric fills in at the sales counter and fountain. Twelve-year-old Elizabeth won't let anyone else foil-wrap chocolate kisses.

"She tells me I just don't wrap right," said her father.

A year after opening, Mary Schultz is working in chocolate full time. Her husband still puts in a 40-hour week as the director of security for Leisure World in Silver Spring, but manages to whip up several batches of fudge every week.

"This is a vacation for me," he said, spreading thick, dark mixtures in pans lined with wax paper.

The shop serves 21 fudge flavors, from amaretto to walnut, with all choices posted on a display board.

Schultz makes fudge from natural ingredients: thick, rich cream and 2 pounds of butter per batch -- 4 pounds for the sugar-free variety. Flavors are the last step in the process.

While her husband is ladling fudge, Mary Schultz tends a computer-controlled vat that swirls 250 pounds of chocolate. Later, she will mold chocolate into whimsical shapes and then cool it on refrigerated shelves.

She can make a personalized business card, a Christmas greeting and custom-embossed coins, wrapped in gold foil and sold in felt bags or miniature chests.

Chocolate that does not fill a mold eventually covers creamy fillings, salted and caramelized nuts or seasonal fruits. It becomes kisses, nonpareils and bark -- white chocolate with peppermint is the shop's exclusive. The store also stocks 26 varieties of sugar-free chocolate.

Mary Schultz prefers desserts to entrees. "I always liked the baking part of cooking," she said.

Her grandparents ran a bakery in a small Pennsylvania town, and she has fond memories of sweet scents -- "Chocolate can take you back to your childhood," she said.

"I can mix fillings that are family standards, but I like experimentation, too," she said.

Now that she can devote all her energies to the shop, there is time to experiment with different combinations.

"Now I can get into the creative side of chocolates," she said. "It is a challenge making new things."

Pub Date: 12/25/98

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