A man usually knows he is on the verge of a big idea if the woman in his life rolls her eyes.
Bluffton resident Vinnie Ferullo learned this firsthand a little over a year ago. While reclining on the beach in Aruba, an idea came to him to save humanity from the end of the world. With chocolate.
“Why can’t you just sit here and watch the women in the bathing suits?” Sandy Ferullo said at the time.
The retired owner of a New Canaan, Connecticut-based home-heating oil company, Ferullo ignored his wife, sipped his pina colada and turned to his lifelong buddy, Nick Monte. Monte owned a candy story in Vermont, and Ferullo enlisted his help in creating the confection that could save the world.
A year later, the two friends were making and selling chocolate with the Mayan Calendar and the Mayan Chocolate God imprinted on them as insurance to save the world from “the end,” which, if the Mayans were correct, was to coincide with the end of their calendar, Dec. 21, 2012 (your results may have varied).
The Mayans are known as the civilizations in “middle Americas,” otherwise known as Mesoamerica. They first lived in the Yucatan around 2600 B.C. and their cultural influence is still alive today in Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras, El Salvador, and northern Belize. They are considered the authors of the first calendar, hieroglyphic writing and, most importantly to Ferullo, they also were the first to worship chocolate.
That day on the beach, this buttoned-up, conservative, God-fearing Catholic thought if the Mayan ancestry knew modern-day cultures also revered chocolate, maybe, just maybe, they could extend their calendar by a few days and the world would be saved from the end.
“I swear it was the pineapple in my drink that got my creative juices flowing that day,” Ferullo said.
Much to the irritation of their wives, Ferullo and Monte explained the Mayans were the first known lovers of chocolate, using it in their ceremonies and health remedies.
That night, Ferullo and Monte called Monte’s daughter Denise, who was minding the chocolate store in Vermont, and asked if Ken, Nick’s son, could make chocolate with the Mayan calendar and chocolate god, “Cacao,” imprinted on it.
Ferullo said the business was low-risk and required just a small investment, since Monte’s store already made chocolate. The problem, appropriately, was time. Ferullo’s wife has Parkinson’s and his days are choreographed with doctor’s appointments and their healthcare regimen.
“Ironically, I didn’t have a lot of time to save the world from the end of time,” Ferullo said.
While Ferullo has a lifetime of experience running a business, he said he may have miscalculated the interest level of those who want to live past Dec. 21.
“While in Aruba, I had a vision of people jumping all over this – I don’t think people jump too much anymore,” Ferullo said.
The two-circular chocolate pieces, about the size of baseballs, sell for about $12.
“Maybe people thought it was just a chocolate bar, however, this is handmade, quality chocolate,” Ferullo said. “More than that; this was the power of chocolate which could save humanity.”
Ferullo laughed and said he and Monte had a great time traveling to New England expos selling their chocolate. Ferullo even bought local ads and dubbed himself the “Bluffton Chocolate God,” offering free delivery to fellow believers in Bluffton, Hilton Head Island and Sun City.
“I would be happy if I broke even,” Ferullo said.
“While this wasn’t the boom I had envisioned, I had a lot of laughs along the way and met a lot of great people.”
Ferullo said he and his business partner met back in their high school years working at a grocery store in Connecticut. They both met their wives at the grocery store while they also worked there. They traveled through life as businessmen, as fathers and as friends.
“This is just another memory with my buddy Nick and, in the end, our wives supported us in our quest to save humanity – we just didn’t get rich from it.”
Ferullo said as he sees it, $2,500 for business licenses, advertising, website development and insurance was a small investment if the calendar hasn’t ended.
Really, who’s to say his respect to the Mayan Calendar and for the Mayan Chocolate god wasn’t the saving grace for the rest of us?