Meet the Chocolatier: Blanca Jenne from Middlebury Sweets
’Tis the season for holiday cheer — a time when family and friends come together to celebrate. Sure, there are the usual holiday parties with finger food, egg nog, cozy fireplaces and ugly sweaters, but don’t forget the most important part… the candy.
What would the holidays be without chocolates, gummies, candy canes, toffees, brittles, caramels, cookies and all the other glorious sweets?
Boring, that’s what.
Never fear, Blanca Jenne has it covered. She has something for every sweet tooth out there at her shop Middlebury Sweets, just off Route 7 in East Middlebury. After all, it is the largest candy store in Vermont with over 1,300 different candies in the store.
“In our holiday section we have prepackaged Middlebury Sweets products like our handmade peanut butter cups, caramel cups and marshmallows,” she began. “We have nuts and chocolate gift tins; you can pre order fudge boxes; we have chocolate pops and Christmas goodies; all sorts of flavored candy canes from Sour Patch to Red Hots; every Jelly Belly flavor imaginable,” she took a breath and a few more steps. “Then there’s the wall of gummies; a few gifts; oh and these are fun: Can O Poop — they’re chocolate covered nuts, I package them and make the labels. We have all kinds of Pez characters, Wonderballs with candy or toys inside, My M&Ms, Sixlets, taffy, old fashioned candies like Mary Janes or Squirrel Nut Zippers…”
The list went on as Jenne shimmied her way past each case.
At the back of the store are four chocolate cases layered with cups, creams, clusters, turtles, brittles, toffee, fudge, chocolate-dipped cookies and pretzels, and more. Jenne hand makes all of these, including what she thinks are some of the best maple creams in the state. “They’re made with Vermont maple syrup from right around the corner,” she said, noting that all of her maple products use sugar from Seeley Sugarworks in Middlebury.
“I make the chocolates in small batches on purpose, so that everything stays fresh,” said Jenne, who got her start back in the mid ’90s when she had a gift basket service. “I’m entirely self taught.”
The only thing she doesn’t make in the cases are the truffles, she leaves that to Lake Champlain Chocolates and Birnn Chocolates of Vermont.
But the store didn’t start out like this.
“It’s been a slow progression to where we are now,” she said, remembering back in 2007 when she moved her scrapbooking and candy store into a new part of her husband’s storage unit business. Brad Jenne has been running ABC Self Storage and a U-Haul center from 12 Ossie Road in East Middlebury since 1998.
“Then the recession hit and it made the scrapbooking side of the business not fun,” Jenne said. “But people kept coming in for the candy… it makes people happy.”
So she switched gears and decided to become the largest candy store in Vermont.
“This has been 10 years in the making,” said Jenne, a San Francisco native.
In her 11th year, the Jennes plan to move the business to the Greystone Motel on Route 7 South. There they will operate the boutique motel’s nine rooms and the candy store, and even have candy-themed rooms — don’t worry they’ll be tasteful.
Sure to come along into the new space are all of Blanca Jenne’s collectables.
“I’ve been collecting since 1998,” she said. As you walk around the current candy shop, you can see all the memorabilia on the tops of the candy shelves with little signs saying “Please don’t touch. Not for sale.” “My mom bought the majority of these for me over the years,” said Jenne, who’s mother passed away this summer. “The very first one was this M&M saxophone man… That represents my personality right there — the goofiness of M&M.” What about playing the saxophone? “No, instruments are too complicated,” she said. “Candy is easier.”
“It’s ironic I ended up collecting for 19 years and I had no idea I would one day own my own candy shop,” Jenne reflected. “I’m happy as a lark doing what I want to be doing.”
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