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New Shop Fills Kingsville Niche with Creative Chocolate Treats

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Published on: May 31, 2017 | Last Updated: May 31, 2017 5:38 PM EDT

In a town known for birding, new avian specimens have landed. Even better, they are made of chocolate.

Handcrafted chocolate birds are one of the specialties of Old Dutch Guys Chocolate, a new shop on Kingsville’s eclectic Main Street. The proprietors are Cor Boon, 75, who hails from Groningen, Holland, and Henry Noestheden, 68, born in Amsterdam.

“We’re two old Dutch guys,” Noestheden said.

Boon is a champion wood carver. His carvings are the inspiration for the chocolate creations sold in the shop. Noestheden is a sculptor with a technical bent. Their collaboration resulted in brisk business in their first week at Kingsville’s bustling four corners.

“They’re knocking it out of the park,” enthused landlord Frank Merlihan, who runs Merlis Coffee House and Eatery next door. Merlihan asked his new tenants to make some chocolates he could include with dessert for a special dinner he puts on for select customers. They came up with a collection of chocolates shaped like beetles, the dark chocolate ones gleaming with hints of gold and silver lustre. “Everyone loved them,” Merlihan said.

This week, Boon was creating a giant, multi-coloured chocolate flower to be used as a centrepiece during dinner, then devoured as dessert.

Boon tells the story of how he and Noestheden met six years ago at a dinner party where Noestheden was the chef and Boon was a guest. Noestheden let Boon’s beloved standard poodle, Whisper, slurp from his glass of wine and a fast friendship ensued.

They decided to go into business together and chose Kingsville for its trendy vibe. “It’s a collection of interesting people and shops,” Noestheden said.

Boon ran a bed and breakfast in Newfoundland after a career selling high-speed, computerized packaging equipment. Among his other endeavours, he wrote a collection of children’s books.

Noestheden lived in New York, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, among other places, working as a designer. One of his projects before landing on chocolate was designing a line of articulating wooden toys.

Their shop has the feel of an ultra-modern jewelry store, with small glass display cases filled with chocolate perched atop sleek white cabinetry. Interspersed are Boon’s carvings, the inspiration for the pieces.

They stripped the former clothing store to the concrete walls and rebuilt the interior themselves. The showroom they separated from the kitchen area with a wall of windows so customers can watch the next batch of creations take shape.

Noestheden said the jewelry store look was intentional. “We wanted to display the chocolate as a high-end gift item. It’s a specialty gift.”

Most items are $20, including a line of chocolate initials. Noestheden said the letters are borne out of the Dutch tradition of topping a pile of Christmas gifts with an initial made of chocolate to indicate the recipient. “It started out as a piece of pastry,” Noestheden explains of the tradition.

A Dutch theme runs through the enterprise. The exterior walls are painted orange and their logo is Boon and Noestheden’s faces in profile, accented to give them the look of old Dutch masters.

The pair’s artistry is matched with their engineering savvy. Boon carves the designs — birds, dogs, beetles, hearts, fruits, a lighthouse and more — then Noestheden fabricates moulds of them using food-grade plastic and silicone.

Boon designed the two mesmerizing machines that move at three revolutions per minute in a pattern mimicking a planet orbiting its sun. The slow movement allows the chocolate to flow evenly throughout the moulds, getting into every nook and cranny. The precise temperature and humidity allows the chocolate to free itself from the silicone mould once dry, in about 20 minutes’ time.

Noestheden sourced the parts for the machines, tweaked the design and built them. The result are chocolate creations with detail so intricate, it looks like each one was carved from a block by hand.

The chocolate they use is imported from Belgium from a company that prides itself on its fair-trade practices, Boon said.

In their first week of business, Noestheden and Boon were already talking about what comes next. Noestheden said he’d like to create a tomato truffle and a line of bonbons. “A Kingsville cannoli,” Boon chimed in.

Their chocolate shop isn’t so much a retirement project as it is a way to rejuvenate themselves, Boon said. “I’ve never had so much pleasure and fun.”