Heavenly chocolate shop opens downtown

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-4ioMy9Khfp.jpg’, ‘Photo by Paul Marek’, ‘Kasey Ford-Wilkins (right) and her assistant, Shannon, work the counter at Venus Chocolates. The shop is open 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and occasionally on Saturday.’);

New addition to downtown River District offers handmade chocolates, snacks and lunches

Kasey Ford-Wilkins made a rather ambitious New Year’s resolution in the beginning of 2004. While others were pledging to try the Atkins diet or join a gym, she resolved to start a new business.

Ford-Wilkins has been making chocolate for a few years and decided to pursue it seriously and make it her career. She accomplished this goal in May by opening Venus Chocolates in the Trust Building at 202 W. State St., suite 410, in the downtown River District. The cozy establishment is bordered by large windows and has a friendly, inviting atmosphere. The shop is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m Monday through Friday and occasionally on Saturday to coincide with special events at the MetroCentre.

As the name suggests, Venus Chocolates specializes in an assortment of unique and delicious candy. Ford-Wilkins makes the chocolate herself and has created her own secret recipe. She explained that it is important to temper the chocolate properly to give it a glassy appearance and crisp finish.

Ford-Wilkins also likes to experiment by flavoring the chocolate with different oils. These have included cinnamon, mint, apple, coffee and even chili pepper. She believes her creative vision and skills give her an edge over other candy shops. “Nobody has handmade exquisite chocolates like I do,” she said.

I sampled a variety of Venus Chocolates’ products (strictly for journalistic purposes, of course) and found the chocolate-covered raisins and cinnamon chocolate balls to be particularly enjoyable. Ford-Wilkins explained that holidays, such as the upcoming Father’s Day, tend to be the establishment’s busiest time. Customers can order chocolate by either completing an order form and returning it to Venus Chocolates or faxing it to 969-0068.

The business, however, features many other items aside from chocolate. Breakfast options include bagels, danishes, muffins and scones. Customers can choose from an assortment of salads and bagel sandwiches for lunch. Venus Chocolates also sells cookies, chips, popcorn and nuts for those looking for a quick snack. Cider and several blends of coffee are available as well.

Although Ford-Wilkins has accomplished her New Year’s goal by opening Venus Chocolates, she already has additional plans for the business.

“I would really like to expand to a larger space and have coffee, wine and cheeses,” Ford-Wilkins said. She also expressed interest in adding outdoor dining areas for customers to enjoy during warm weather.

After tasting a few of Venus Chocolates’ specialties, I’m sure all would agree it is a unique and welcome addition to Rockford’s downtown River District.

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