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Having opened our doors on November 15, 2003, we are now in our sixth year of business! The past five years have brought many challenges and growth for us. We now employ two full-time and four part-time staff and continue to be open seven days a week. We want to thank the many loyal customers who have supported us in the launch of our business. We attribute our close relationship with them – and our committment to remaining open to new ideas to satisfy them – to our success so far.
– Derek & Jacqueline Barr
When Derek Barr climbs out of bed in the morning and heads to work, he is excited to go back to the daily grind. The last few months have been devoted to opening up his first business, Chocolate Barr's Candies, in Stratford Place on Ontario Street – something Barr said has him waking up with a twinkle in his eye, keen to head to his sweet headquarters.
"Everyone loves chocolate," said Derek, who is tackling the operation with the help of his wife Jacqueline. "You really have to love doing this... it's really the love of the job."
Set to open Saturday, Chocolate Barr's Candies will offer an "affordable" selection of candies, said Derek, who worked for five years at Rheo Thompson Candies.
"Rheo was nice enough to teach me everything I know," said Derek. "We want to do a few things differently though."
Although they want to get up and running before makng any decisions, Derek said the business may create their own truffle line, something other chocolate stores in Stratford do not have. And, of course, the newlyweds are focussing on keeping costs down while keeping quality high.
"The prices may be a bit lower," said Jacqueline. "But the quality will still be very good."
Jacqueline – who will manage the retail portion of the store while Derek heads up the back where the candy is made – is fairly new to the world of confections, having worked for years in the restaurant and hospitality industries.
"I'm just learning how to make chocolate now." said Jacqueline, who previously worked at Bentley's. "I've been working at it for a bit."
Though not an expert candymaker yet, Jacqueline has no problem being Derek's official taste tester – nor have they heard any argument from the contractors working on the store that have had their sweet tooth satisfied over the past few weeks.
Though the doors have yet to open, Derek and Jacqueline have already heard feedback – mostly in the form of salivating anticipation – from customers who have already stopped by the store.
We've had so many people coming to the door and telling us they can't wait until we're open," said Jacqueline. Derek noted one elderly couple has stopped by on multiple occasions, checking on the store's progress.
But for now, the pair has warded off the circling vulture-like chocolate fiends and has been trying to get enough product prepared for their grand opening.
Derek has been working hard to produce enough product to stock the store and in doing so, he's had the chance to work with some of his new equipment ordered from Detroit.
Keeping with the methods of traditional candy making, Derek has many older machines, some dating back to 1909, that he plans to use to give his product the personal touch.
I've spent days washing and cleaning some of this stuff," said Derek, motioning to the old mixer and other equipment already set up in the back room. A friend even dug out an old contraption Derek said will be perfect for peppermint sticks.
But Chocolate Barr's Candies almost didn't get off the ground in Stratford. The Bars had been looking at locations in Waterloo, though they both knew they wanted to stay in Stratford.
"I really didn't want to leave Stratford, I didn't want to leave my home," said Derek, adding that the unit in the building fell into his lap with some help from a family friend. "And going to Waterloo, it was a little closer to big competition."
Originally from Waterloo, Jacqueline could not be happier to stay in Stratford, a community she enjoys, she said, where she is slowly meeting many new people in a beautiful setting.
"I see Derek walk down the street and he always knows someone," she said with a laugh. "I know eventually I'll end up like that."
For now, the pair is concentrating on getting Chocolate Barr's Candies off the ground and giving their customers a chance to increase their sugar high in an upbeat environment.
Candy making is so much fun," said Derek. "It's always a fun atmosphere. I'd do this job for free."