By Portia Williams
The Sweet Boutique, 719 Chillicothe Street in Portsmouth, an artisan marketplace full of delicious, dainty chocolates, tantalizing fudge, hand-crafted gifts and more, has continued to expand since it first opened in July 2015. Founder Karen Davis, said The Sweet Boutique is unique, and a rarity in the local area.
“When people first come in here they say, there is nothing else like this in Portsmouth, and that is what our goal is, to be completely different,” Davis said.”So we are a conglomeration of a lot of different things, and it just kind of pulls together everybody from different walks of life to come in, and we are trying to really expand that.”
The hours of operation for The Sweet Boutique are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m and Saturday 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Since the opening of The Sweet Boutique, Davis said she has been reaching out to a variety of vendors, extending an invitation to come in a sell their merchandise.
“What I did was invited several of my friends to come in with me, to pay the rent, and to give them the same opportunity that I was having. “
Davis and the other vendors housed in The Sweet Boutique recently signed another six months on the leasing for the building.
“We have renewed our lease for six months, and we are a group that is constantly growing,” Davis said. “We do month-to-month leases, and so they can come in, and if it works they can stay, and if it doesn’t they choose to go and do something else. It is to give everybody an opportunity for small business.
Davis’ business specializes in chocolates, Kakao Konfections. According to Davis, the Word Kakao is a Mayan word for chocolate.
“My specific business is chocolate. I do Artisan chocolate, where i make all of the chocolate myself,” Davis said. “I order the chocolate from wholesale vendors, and then I create my own flavors with my own recipes. Everything that I do is my own, it’s all original. “
All of Davis’ truffles and bonbons are handcrafted with 100 percent real chocolate. An abbreviated list of her most popular flavors include, OSU Buckeye, Oh My Raspberry, Orange Cardamom Spice, Double Dark Truffle, Cappuccino, and Salted Carmel.
She said she has been been working with chocolate for four years, and after constantly being asked by many of the location of her shop, she decided to get one. One being an entrepreneur, Davis said it is a learning process.
“It is definitely a learning process. I learn something new every day. It is hard work. I work about 70 hours each week, between making the chocolates and bringing them in here.
Jo-Dee Knittel-Chapman, owns Dean’s Fudge. It is the original Knittel family recipe from more than 50 years ago.
“When I was a little girl, my dad Dean Knittel, always made fudge, and was known for his race car driving,” Knittel-Chapman said.” And what is etched in my memory at Christmas time is that carolers would come, and my dad would always give them fudge, and I always said I am going to do something with that some day.”
Knittel-Chapman began putting her fudge-making skills to work 10 years ago.
“So, 10 years ago I started working with it, and I have actually done it for 10 years this year,” Knittel Chapman said. “I have companies in which I start the weekend of Thanksgiving, and they order 150 boxes from me, and I’ll start that weekend, and I won’t stop until the weekend before Christmas.”
Knittel-Chapman said make a variety of flavors of fudge.
“I make a host of different flavors. My dad always made chocolate and peanut butter, I can make any flavor that anybody wants,” she said.”But my dreams has always been to be like, ‘Cheryl’s cookies in the mall, I want Dean’s Fudge there.”
Knittel-Chapman said she has had an overwhelming response from for the community to her fudge.
“They are aware of it, and they love it. I decided to do the checkered flag as a logo with picture of my dad. People will see my dad and say, “Hey I know him,” “So that’s why I called it Dean’s Fudge. My fudge is always here, but because I work, sometimes I am here at 4:30 or 5 p.m.”
Dean’s Fudge items may be purchased during the The Sweet Boutique hours of operation of Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11. a.m. until 3 p.m.
Diana’s Jewelry Creations, owner Diana Teeters is among the vendors in The Sweet Boutique which offers handcrafted jewelry.
“I have been making handcrafted jewelry for about 10 years now. I am a retired French teacher, and I was looking for some type of activity, and so I learned the art of making jewelry. Teeters said. “Several of us here used to be located on Second Street in the Boneyfiddle area, but in December it went out of business. We were looking for some place, and Karen, who we already knew, invited us to come here.”
She said becoming a part of The Sweet Boutique business family has been a very nice experience.
“We are really happy to be together. Not everybody from Boneyfiddle came here, just some of us. I really like it here. A lot of people like sweets, and they come here and buy the jewelry as well,” Teeter said. “
Jewelry lovers can find necklaces, earrings, bracelets that are amethyst, turquoise, and a variety of colors and styles. Teeters also makes jewelry compatible with the holidays.
“Halloween is coming, so I am making Halloween bracelets. For Christmas I am making bracelets, earrings, necklaces,” Teeters said. “I make bracelets for kids, and for adults. I am making preparation to be able to make jewelry for all different ages and all people.”
Diana’s Jewelry Creations is open in The Sweet Boutique, Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Sarah Vest and Debbie Penix are co-owners of Sugar Rush Bakery. The Sweet Boutique is one their two locations, the second being Portsmouth Pizzeria.
“We started about a year and a half ago. We are also located in Portsmouth Pizzeria. So this is a hobby that we have been doing for a long time,” Vest said. “We do cupcakes, we do birthday cakes, we do wedding cakes, we can accommodate any occasion. We do everything from scratch, even our icings, our recipes, we don’t do any cake mixes, its all homemade recipes. We were approached by Karen to come here, and we though about it, and thought it would be a great idea to have second location to bring cupcakes, and people can place orders for their cakes here.”
Sugar Rush Bakery likes to keep a variety of flavors for their cupcakes, beyond the typical chocolate and vanilla. Sugar Rush Bakery’s hours of operation in The Sweet Boutique is Wednesday through Saturday from 11 am. until 6 p.m.
One of the advantages of having a second location at The Sweet Boutique is the exposure.
“This environment is really nice because it gets a lot of foot traffic in here. So we get a lot more recognition. In Portsmouth Pizzeria there is not as much foot traffic, but is more of delivery. We can send cupcakes or cookies with a delivery if someone calls in and orders,” Vest said.
One of the artistic vendors of Sweet Boutique is Sue Lonney of Sue’s Art Closet.
“I have been doing art for about 30 years, different types of art. Right now I am into collages, the paper and pastels, mostly floral,” Lonney said. “I showed work at the library, they had such a nice opportunity for us on that wall, but this is the first time that I have displayed my art work for selling. I am really excited about it. The people here are really nice, and it is a great opportunity.”
As the holiday season fast approaches, Lonney said she plans to make more of her artwork available.
“I know that people will be shopping more, as we move into the holiday season, so I want to have more for people to choose from,” Lonney. said.”My booth is an un-manned booth, so people can come in and purchase my artwork any time that The Sweet Boutique open, which is Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Beth Hartsaw, Goodies & Crafts Galore.
“It kind of started out with peanut butter fudge, it’s my grandmother’s recipe, and it has just grown to chocolate, to chocolate with nuts, then banana nut bread,” Hartsaw said. “We pretty much have all of those things all of the time, and then we have different things covered in chocolate, pretzels, turtles sometimes, just a variety of candies and things.”
“I make apples, and cover them in caramel, and chocolate, and offer a variety of toppings that you can get on them, she said. “If someone has a special request, for instance a woman sent me one that she wants me to do for Halloween, its going to look like a Minnie Mouse, and it is going to have marshmallow ears. I am still very new to this, but I will definitely attempt whatever my customers ask me to do.”
“This new venture is growing for me, and it is growing pretty fast,” Hartsaw said. “I work a full-time job, and this is pretty much turning into a full-time job too. I go home at night and I make candy, and make apples. The way that I got into this, is through the place at I work at we have a lot of potlucks, and I love to cook, and would always take things in, and my co-workers would tell me how much they liked my food, and suggested that I make some of it available to sell.
Hartsaw said she heard about The Sweet Boutique through the social media website, Facebook, and was encouraged by many to looking into taking her cooking talents there.
“I called and talked to Karen, and then I came in with my husband, and I decided to try it, and we have been here since July 29th, and I am glad that I did it,” Hartsaw said. ” I could not do this without my mother, Brenda Prater, and my husband. My husband is the backbone of it, helping with anything that needs moved, and my mother primarily mans the store when I am at work at my other job.”
Hand-turned ink pens are another item that can be purchased at Hartsaw’s booth.
“My husband Donald makes ink pens, they are hand-turned ink. He has a lathe and he hand turns them. So, they are a unique gift, and we are hoping that their sells will pick up around the holiday season. We have sold some, but it is not the type of item that a person is going to want to come in a purchase everyday. They are typically going to be looking for fudge, or an apple, but we are working on getting the word out there more about So we are trying to get over into some woodcraft items also,” Hartsaw said.
Prater said working the Goodies & Crafts Galore booth has been a delightful experience, and is something that allows her to get out and interact with others. Hartsaw said she wants her mother’s (Prater) work to be more of a hobby, and not work.
Goodies & Crafts Galore is open in The Sweet Boutique Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
According to Davis, there are nine vendors that have booths, that are stationed in The Sweet Boutique, and several other vendors pay a commission and bring in their merchandise to sell, but they do not actually have a booth.
There are currently two vacancies for two new vendors to come and join The Sweet Boutique. ‘Pop Up Shops’ are also an option, in which vendors may come in on a short term basis to sell their merchandise, without making a long term commitment.
“We rent for $100 per month, and then everybody chips in on the advertising. What if this starts a whole new movement down Chillicothe Street, where more people are able to go in and start something, and help to revitalize the downtown area here in Portsmouth? We need something like this,” Davis said.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter@PortiaWillPDT.