On a brisk December day, chocolate artist Jackie Fenton is warm inside, carefully squeezing bright green chocolate onto even more chocolate. Soon, an ornamented Christmas tree emerges.
It’s 1 p.m. on a Tuesday, and Plandome Road’s Chocolate Works is devoid of customers, many of whom are busy at nearby schools, but Fenton is busy at work and owner Stephanie Solomon has her brother in dipping graham crackers in chocolate as a seasonal helping hand.
The holidays are the store’s busiest season, Solomon said.
“Right now is my favorite,” Fenton said.
“I think it’s everybody’s favorite time of year,” Solomon chimed in.
“It has a great feeling, making holiday stuff,” Fenton said. “It feels lighthearted and fun.”
A table in the store with baskets of chocolates is labeled as perfect for teacher gifts, and a vertical rack has smiling snowmen in top hats.
Though the store has only existed for five years, it has become a staple in Manhasset, Solomon said.
“I think if you’re a child in Manhasset you’ve been in this store more than once,” she said.
Chocolate Works is more than just a shop, decked out with candy, chocolate and other small gifts. It hosts birthday parties and ladies nights out, and customers can even book a private chocolate-making experience.
Solomon said a 90-year-old woman’s birthday party is one of her favorite memories from the store.
“She was probably the most excited birthday girl we’ve had,” she said.
Solomon, who grew up and still lives in Roslyn, is a lawyer by trade and practiced law for almost 18 years.
“I was miserable at my last job,” she said. “They did a restructuring so I restructured myself out of there and was looking to be happy.”
At the time, Chocolate Works, which has its world headquarters in Freeport, was a family-run business looking to franchise, she said.
Solomon opened one in Rockville Centre and then three and a half years ago took over ownership of Manhasset’s.
Her transition from law to chocolate was more significant than the transition from law to business, she said.
“Everybody loves chocolate,” she said. “It’s delicious. It makes people happy.”
Being on Plandome Road draws children from the nearby schools, and the store’s fun and safe environment is something their parents appreciate, Solomon said.
She is the co-president of the Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, an involvement that she said felt like a civic duty as a business owner in the area.
Fenton went to both art and culinary school. She said she finds creative freedom in her assignments at the store, which offers personalized platters for clients and events.
“I love making things that someone specifically asked for something, very true to them, true to their personality, and I get to know them a little through my work,” she said. “Even if it’s like a sports team or something it’s really cool for them to receive a personal gift.”
The environment at Chocolate Works for employees and customers feels like a family, Fenton said.
“Even though the weather’s cold it just feels so warm and cozy when you have like chocolate or some hot chocolate –” She pauses. “Just chocolate. Any chocolate.”