Prior to Ethereal Confections moving in the Church Block Building located right off the main square in Woodstock, Ill., the fledging business operated in a 400-sq.-ft. nook on Main St.
As co-owners and sisters-in-law Mary Ervin and Sara Miller explain, “In a way, this space found us and it was perfect because it connected us to the past, to a time when people cared about food and artisan work and that’s exactly what motivates us every day [The sight previously housed a book store, a restaurant and an Irish pub]. We divided the space in two so that our work area is front and center. We want people to see and experience our craft as soon as they walk in.”
Like most entrepreneurial chocolatiers, Ervin and Miller initially purchased their chocolate from well-known suppliers. But with the opening of the new store, the two decided to begin roasting their own chocolate directly from the cocoa bean, creating flavors that no other chocolate shop can make.
“Chocolate sucks you in,” the two acknowledge. “You start off thinking you are just going to make a few truffles, but then suddenly you are making bars, buying equipment and then roasting your own beans.”
Today, Ethereal Confections offers such bean-to-bar offerings as Sweet Basil and Cherry Blossom, Black Cherry Lemonade and Blood Orange and Vanilla Bean in addition to 30 truffle varieties and a half-dozen desserts, all made on the premises.
Ethereal Confections imports cocoa beans from Belize, the Dominican Republic and Madagascar, experimenting with roasting times to extract specific flavor notes.
In a few short years, Ethereal Confections has grown to produce a broad line of bean-to-bar confections. Michael Erwin, Sara’s husband, handles sales for the company. Its products are distributed in more than 200 gourmet and specialty grocery stores across the Unites States.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
It would be hard to say anything other than chocolate! Probably a single-origin dark chocolate bar. High nutrient, full of good energy. We could melt it down to make a nice barbeque sauce for the native game on the island. So many possibilities!
What was the last cool thing you saw online?
Micropig in boots.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Invisible. That’s a super power, right?
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
Sustainability of all the processes that go into producing the end product and availability of ingredients. There are a significant number of things that need to change in farming and distribution in order to create a product and economic system that encourages good, safe, renewable practices. In addition, consumers need transparency to see those companies which embrace these values.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
All the Light We Cannot Seeby Anthony Doerr.
What is your pet peeve?
Heat. It melts chocolate. It makes us uncomfortable.
If given the chance to choose anyone, whom would you like to collaborate with?
Alton Brown. He’s an artist and a scientist. (plus he’s really funny). What could be better?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
If it works, keeps doing it.
What excites you most about your job?
Stress! Actually there is a lot of stress even though it’s just chocolate! We are most excited about world domination. Well, through chocolate anyway.