Chocolate Makes Every Day a Holiday
By Pamela A. Keene | Photography courtesy of Margaretes Fine Chocolates
Tupelo landmark chocolate shop Margaretes spreads all kinds of sweetness for the holidays.
When most people think of chocolate for special occasions, Valentine’s Day springs to mind, but according to the National Confectioners Association, more than 90 percent of Americans will give some sort of chocolate or candy at Christmas.
“Chocolate-covered strawberries are one of our most popular confections for the holidays,” says Henry Daniels, president of Margaretes Fine Chocolates in Tupelo, Miss. “Followed closely by our truffles, turtles, and caramel pecan patties, these are our top four selections during December.”
Daniels purchased the former Mrs. Burdens Chocolates in 1996 and changed the name to Margaretes Fine Chocolates. He made the deliberate decision to specialize in gourmet chocolates and offers them by the piece or the pound.
“Our customers can come in and buy one piece or as many as they want,” Daniels says. “During the holidays, we offer a few prepackaged baskets and gift packages, but the people who are our regulars like the ability to purchase just a few pieces if they like.”
Gourmet candies include a wide assortment of truffles, crème-filled candies, molded chocolates, chocolate-covered nuts, brandy-filled chocolates, plus specialty items such as the chocolate-covered strawberries, pineapples, and caramel-chocolate-dipped and decorated apples on a stick.
“Our gourmet chocolates are sourced from several excellent suppliers,” Daniels says. “I often receive samples from companies wanting us to carry their lines, but if I taste them and don’t like them, we just don’t carry them. I’m kind of like Morris the Cat; I’m finicky about what we offer our customers, and if Morris doesn’t like them, you won’t find them here.”
Many of the store’s offerings are created on site. Chocolate-covered double-stuffed Oreos, graham crackers, pretzels, and potato chips line shelves and sit side-by-side with gourmet selections on the large cooled candy cases that greet customers as they come in the door. Fresh fruit dipped in chocolate is locally sourced to assure the best quality and freshness. Ninety percent of his business is walk-in; the other 10 percent comes from online sales.
“We also do special orders, from cakes topped with our chocolate-covered strawberries to chocolate-dipped grapes, pretty much anything people want,” he says. “The strawberries are made every single day right here in the store and they’re available all year long.”
Growing up about 15 miles from Tupelo, Daniels spent the early years of his career in food service with Sunflower Food Stores, learning the business. He also served in the National Guard before building a business in health insurance.
He shares the back-story of how he came to own a specialty chocolate store. “Margaretes was born out of love in 1996,” he says. “At the time, there wasn’t a chocolate store in Tupelo so I purchased the former Mrs. Burdens and set up the business as a partnership with a former girlfriend whose name was Margarete. We are no longer together; I now own and manage the business, which I incorporated in 2006.”
Hands down, he sees about 80 percent of his customers purchase some kind of milk chocolate treat. “That’s the favorite, with dark chocolate and white chocolate each only bought about 10 percent of the time.”
Admittedly he likes milk chocolate the best, too, but he says he’s disciplined about how much he will eat. “I love my chocolate, but I don’t get carried away.”
Margaretes makes and sells more than chocolate. The store packages and markets several hundred pounds of Tupelo honey each year to locals and tourists. “A product of the Tupelo white gum tree that grows in the wetlands of Florida, the honey has a unique taste, an amber color and is pure,” he says. “The tree blooms in April and May.”
Daniels says it’s not unusual for people who visit Elvis’ birthplace to come by and purchase several pounds of Tupelo honey to take back home even though it’s not produced in Mississippi.
As for the holidays, Margaretes can create custom gift baskets in all price ranges. “Chocolate can make any day a holiday, especially when it’s hand-made, gourmet fine chocolate,” he says. “And when you can pick exactly what you want, it’s even better.”
Daniels’s childhood memories of chocolate center around the community drug store. They sold pre-determined boxes of Whitman’s or Russell Stover candy and you pretty much had to take what you got. There were a lot of candies left in the box that no one wanted to eat. Today, he’s fixed that, citing a modified line from the film “Forest Gump” as a good reason to stop by Margaretes often.
“You never know what you’re going to get unless you stop by Margaretes, where you can pick out exactly what you want that day,” Daniels says with a smile. You certainly won’t be stuck with any unwanted leftovers.”