Hello Felicity! Welcome back to Texas!
Thank you. It’s good to be home.
I am so glad you could chat today. Have you ever been interviewed for blog before?
Actually, I have. People get excited about chocolate, and a couple of foodie bloggers have approached me looking to profile Greetings and Felicitations because it is new. They’ve taken some beautiful pictures of my chocolate and the processes going on in my factory. I haven’t even had my official opening yet, but between the blog publicity and the foot traffic coming in from the cruise ships, business has been growing.
You must be super excited to be back home and living on the beach!
I’m happy to be back in Texas. This is where my support network is, and I need them right now. I don’t know if you heard, but my husband passed away. My aunt is a house flipper, and she’s been letting me stay with her, since her husband works offshore and she’s alone most of the time. We’re currently in one of the Victorian homes over on the East End, which is the historic district. It’s a really cool house, with so much history. There are so many houses in need of love and restoration on the island, I’m sure Aunt Naomi is never going to run out of projects. I hope she picks one of the luxury beach cabins next, or one of the homes on the bay. There is nothing so comforting as falling asleep with the sound of the waves crashing rhythmically in the distance. My father is an architect. When I was a kid we lived in this amazing beach house, which he designed himself. It was all open spaces and windows and light. He’s so talented, and I think the way the windows framed the beach is one reason I love the water so much. My health isn’t the best, so I can’t do anything overly athletic, like my assistant Carmen, who surfs, but I like walking on the sand, especially at sunset, and bouncing around in the waves.
How long have you been away from Galveston?
I’ve been home to visit from time to time, but it’s been eleven years since I lived in Galveston previously.
Where did you go in your travels?
I moved to Seattle. My husband got a job there. We were both still in college when we got married, and he graduated first and got a job offer. He was a marine engineer, so you know we were going to wind up somewhere near the ocean. And Seattle was close to his family. Kevin and I love to travel, and we kept this box of maps of places we’d been together and places we wanted to go. Kevin loved to dive, but that was a bit too much for me, so when we would go somewhere amazing, he would always make time for us to do an easy snorkeling session or just go sailing. We snorkeled Black Rock in Hawaii on our honeymoon. With so much marine life, every trip after that seemed a little downhill, until we did Stingray City in the Caymans. All those tame rays – it was the most exhilarating and the most relaxing thing I’ve ever done. But that kind of traveling always had a selfish element to it. Kevin and I had talked a lot about exploring the world with more of a sense of purpose. And we came up with the idea of starting a craft chocolate business when he retired. But he died well before that could happen. So I started the chocolate company on my own. It was just something I needed to do.
Did you have a job while you were traveling or were you just doing research?
I finished school in Seattle and became a physical therapist. I had a thriving practice, helping people in pain feel better. It was rewarding work. But I’m at a place in my life right now where I need a new challenge, and a distraction from my grief.
It must be so great to be near family now with your opening so near. Do you have family helping or working in the shop with you?
None of my family members work at the shop. Aunt Naomi is my shop’s biggest cheerleader, though. She’s the one who got me my first blog interview, with a friend of a friend of hers. And she’s put up fliers about my grand opening all the way over into Houston. My parents moved inland after the last hurricane leveled their beach house, but they’re still close enough to drive over sometimes. They bought me my plane ticket for my first sourcing trip, to Ecuador. I had enough money to cover it, but they wanted to show their support, even if they can’t quite wrap their heads around the career change.
Have you had the chance to reconnect with old friends?
Yes! My best friend Autumn and I have kept in touch over the years mainly through electronic media, but moving back means we get to have lunch once a week. She has this huge creative side. She published a few mystery novels and was starting to do well – and then something happened, and she stopped writing. I’m hoping that now that I’m back, I can find out what happened and try to help.
The shop looks so charming. I would love to sample a piece of your simple plain Chocolate. I admit I don't really like nuts and things.
That’s great! I specialize in two ingredient chocolate bars. Just cacao beans and sugar. I do have a line of truffles, but that’s just to get people used to dark chocolate and the many nuances of flavor. With beans sourced from the same farm or collective, you get flavor notes specific to the trees grown in that area. Sometimes you can bring out fruity notes in the chocolate, so that customers will swear you’ve added cherries or plums to the chocolate. Sometimes they’ll say they can taste coffee or nuts. Some cacao beans are really astringent – which comes across as anything from lemon to leather.
As you can probably guess, my real passion lies in crafting the chocolate, which has much in common with winemaking or coffee roasting. It’s all about buying beans that have been fermented and dried to high standards – hence the sourcing trips, to visit individual cacao farms – and then roasting and grinding them to bring out the best flavor notes.
You can never guarantee that any particular region’s beans will be the same from year to year, so it can be a challenge to find the perfect roasting conditions when the new beans you order come in with a different flavor profile, but that element of challenge is part of the appeal.
What piece would you suggest to win me over?
Here. Try one of my Belize bars. Don’t you love the wrapper? That’s a picture of my bunny, Knightley, on it, and if you flip it over on the back, there’s a place to write a greeting to someone. It’s the greetings part of the name of my shop, Greetings and Felicitations. Go ahead and open it. You should taste notes of strawberry and caramel. It’s probably the sweetest of the chocolates I make. We’re going to make drinking chocolate out of it for the grand opening. It’s like super thick hot chocolate. I can make you some now if you’d like.
I know you must have so many things to do to get ready for your opening.
I do, but everything is under control. I have two amazing assistants who both happen to love party planning. Carmen is trained as a pastry chef. I hired her as a barista, but she’s been tinkering in the kitchen, and we sell whatever she creates. Let me get you a slice to go of the chocolate cake she’s made, with my Ecuador chocolate, canela, and ancho chili powder. It’s so good. My other assistant, Emma, used to work at the local bookstore. But she applied here, and since I plan to have a book section in the shop to keep people here longer, I snapped her up. She’s smart and well-read. The three of us have a great working vibe. I hope they’ll both be working for me for a long time.
Thanks for the sample. Best wishes!
Thank you for the interview! Don’t forget your drinking chocolate.