Say hello to Chloe, Dan, and Pam, family owners of Sweet P Confectionery in the Strand Shopping Arcade (which is now looking pretty good all round). Pam is the P in Sweet P, so that’s the name question quickly resolved. Pam is Chloe’s Mum and Chloe is married to Dan (keep up) so making and selling chocolate in Bude is now truly a family affair. For some time, the trio has been making and selling chocolate as wholesalers (they sell throughout the UK) but this is their first venture into retail. They are careful not to duplicate products locally. The chocolate they make for other retailers is never replicated in their own shop. The double unit in the Strand couples as a kitchen, so it’s pretty cool that you can actually see chocolate-making in action through the window. The trio decided to go ahead with the shop (currently open 7 days a week) at the end of February and finally opened a couple of weeks ago in May. Must say, it’s looking good, and is part of an attractive group of retail outlets that is now The Strand. You can sit outside or in and enjoy a coffee or – in my case – a hot chocolate, from their swish machine while you ponder on what chocolates to buy.
Dan is the digital arm – he built the website and does the SEO, social media, administrative and technical work. With his degree is in 3D computer animation, he rather cleverly designed the shop in 3D so they could see what it was like before they actually spent money and put the work into moving in. Chloe trained as a beauty therapist but felt Bude already has plenty of those. She now uses her obvious creativity in other ways. It was Chloe, known as ‘the artistic one,’ who decided on the pink theme, having looked at vintage style shops and sweets. She feels it gives the (true) impression of a small, local, hand-made product rather than a corporate mass-produced one. It does seem to fit well.
While I was there tasting the artisan product, Susanna Dark from Wise Old Crow popped in. She commented:
“After sampling this, I will never feel satisfied with any other chocolate. This is cooked from the heart. They have put the soul back into chocolate”.
Phew, quite an accolade but I can say that she isn’t wrong. The chocolate is delicious. Interestingly, as I sampled the chocolate (hot chocolate, too – lose weight, you say?) I started thinking about the days when I worked in Bury, Lancashire, and a nearby exquisite chocolate shop called Slattery’s. As Pam started talking about her training (she has been a chocolatier for 10 years) it transpired she completed a course at Slattery’s and learned to make chocolate there, so there’s a coincidence. Hers, I’d say, tastes just as good. Pam is now so skilled that she can make more complex bespoke items especially for events like weddings, birthdays and other celebrations.
I was curious about what drew Pam to chocolate-making, as it is a tough craft (I’ve seen the demos at Slattery’s). She explained that she is impatient, and chocolate making has to be done quickly unlike, say, sugarcraft which is incredibly painstaking, so she likes the fast pace. Chloe likes the practical use of chocolate, too. It isn’t just for decoration! The team all have interdependent and complementary skills. Dan’s digital creativity is a boon for web activity and packaging. Chloe likes things to have a practical application and acts as the quality control, too. She is a perfectionist so no sub-standard product would get through her stringent tests. She also likes the place to look good. They all get on well and can bounce ideas off each other which creates a better product/outlet. All have different tastes, too. Pam dislikes lime so tends not to use it; however, Chloe likes lime so suggests interesting combinations to try like peppermint and lime. I am no fan of coffee but even I enjoyed the peppermint and coffee flavoured sample, but yes, we do tend to stick to what we like so having a variety of ideas is crucial in developing the product.
The chocolate is not cheap but then it is hand-made and you can taste the difference. All is made in small batches, containing high-quality (and where possible, local) ingredients which are traceable, combining the art and science of the chocolatier. I loved the honey chocolate. I’m also a big fruit flavour fan. They now have an edible ink printer, so can make very personal chocolates containing photos, which gives them scope for more personalised products. Pam enjoys the bespoke work very much as she likes the fun element, developing new areas and creating new items. They have lots of ideas to try, such as chocolate pastes/cake covering for people’s home-made cakes.
It’s early days for the retail side though the wholesale business is fairly well-established. Chloe is keen to find new products to perfect. She is eager to eventually grow the business and maybe even be able to offer local jobs one day. Dan is keen to consolidate what they have while Pam is enthusiastic about getting their name ‘out there’, to create something sustainable, as they are all in it for the long haul. Community-spirited Pam, an ex-teacher, would also hope to work with local schools to encourage youngsters to learn about chocolate.
The Strand Shopping Arcade is becoming a bustling place with some interesting and unusual businesses so Sweet P fits in very well. Why not pop in to buy something off the shelf or even to chat about a bespoke order. Orders can take up to 10 days to complete, but often less time depending upon what’s required. For example, you can have truffles made with your favourite alcohol if you take the bottle in (you get what’s left back) or have specific shapes (if you already have a mould for something unusual, that’s even quicker). Best idea is to sample a piece, maybe enjoy a hot drink and discuss your requirements with the team. Personal service is definitely all part of Sweet P.
PS: My daughter was very pleased with her post exam treat of a block of orange flavoured chocolate – she said it tasted very smooth!