Back in the late sixties I graduated from college with a degree in Political Science and Education. I began teaching political science, enjoyed it, but something was missing. I had an entrepreneurial spirit that needed to be fulfilled.
I was fascinated with the fudge operations at Niagara Falls, Mackinaw Island, and the state fairs. Knowing nothing about fudge or chocolate making, I decided to leave my teaching position and jump into the confection business. With the help of some people in the chocolate business, I started to learn the craft and, in short order, opened a fudge shop kiosk in a large upstate New York regional mall. The basic concept was to make fudge (and eventually chocolates) on location. It was originally meant to be open for the holidays only, but it was such a success that it became a permanent business. It was followed by several other mall locations.
In 1976, I decided to leave my business and move to New Hope. Having grown up outside of Princeton, New Jersey, I was familiar with Bucks County and New Hope and it's sense of community. Having been successful in New York, I figured I'd try again and opened Country Fair Chocolates on Main Street in New Hope. Again I was making the chocolates on location but expanding the product line. My parents, who also loved Bucks County, eventually moved to the area (followed by all four siblings). When they settled in and began running Country Fair, I was able to open, with another Tom who grew up with my family and then moved here as well, the first of several shops in Princeton.
Called Thomas Sweet, we made on-location chocolates and ice cream. After becoming very successful, we opened several franchise stores. Thirty+ years was enough and we sold the business and it is still going strong today. Years earlier I had sold Country Fair, which is still going strong in New Hope.
Still I needed something to do, so with my daughter Sara's suggestion and involvement, I opened a chocolate cafe in Philadelphia (where she was going to school). It was a great location, great looking cafe, and great business, however, after six years and opening two other cafes with a partner, it was time to stop commuting to Philly.
Through serendipity, I bought a very well-known chocolate shop in New Hope, Pierre's Chocolates. Opened in 1986, the shop developed a great following.
I brought my son-in-law (Sara's husband, Justin) into the business, and with his expertise and great palette for chocolate, we continued to grow Pierre's by expanding the chocolates that we used. Justin has travelled to Central and South America to source cacao and other ingredients for Pierre's.
Missing the Naked Chocolate concept and wanting to bring the chocolates to an even higher level, and with the involvement of Stan Brown, whose real estate expertise was instrumental in finding the Philadelphia locations, Justin and I set out to open a Naked Chocolate. With Stan as a partner and the one who found our location in Newtown, we have opened Naked Chocolate. We are all thrilled with the store's design.
We will be making "bean to bar" chocolates in our chocolate room visibly behind a great glass window. We will be roasting cacao beans that Justin has sourced from Central and South America. Everyone will be able to see the chocolate making process from roasting to conching. We are making beautiful, hand-painted bon bons and single origin chocolate bars with cacao beans from around the world. And we are offering our award-winning hot drinking chocolate.
I am still living in New Hope with my wife, Jacky, and Sara's family close by.