There is a tragic yet life-saving byproduct of working at The Chocolate Tree for 30 years: You no longer smell the chocolate.
Pat Green, owner of the mouthwatering Carteret Street shop that since 1980 has been “sweetening the world one piece at a time,” says she’s become immune to that delicious aroma everyone else inhales with gusto when they walk in the store.
“If we’re cooking fudge or something that’s really strong, I will smell it,” she says. “And if I’m not there every day, I’ll smell it. But when I’m there all the time, I can’t. I really can’t.”The ability to once again enjoy that delicious aroma is one more benefit of Pat’s impending retirement, set to start this summer when her sister and her son take over the business full-time.
“It’s really a very physically demanding job, especially the making of the candy and lifting the heavy kettles,” says Green, 67, who moved to Beaufort in 1964 from Providence, R.I. She’s still astounded by the sheer amount of chocolate they churn out — upwards of 45,000 pounds of chocolate annually, which doubles with all the caramel, nuts, marshmallows, cream and other goodness that is added to the treats.
“I’m still amazed, (wondering) ‘Where is all this chocolate going?’” she says. “I remember back when we prayed for a 50-dollar day.”
Green and a partner opened their business 30 years ago, focusing on giving candy-making lessons to groups and individuals. “After they’d taken the classes and bought some supplies, they’d want to buy some chocolate to eat on the way home,” she says. Before long the demand for the finished product far exceeded the demand for learning the process. These days, the grandmother of seven is still mixing and melting, having grown The Chocolate Tree’s business and reputation so far and wide and sweet that Green was recently inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame.
“It was like going to the Academy Awards — man, they do it up right,” she says of the black-tie induction ceremony and reception, held in Tampa in October. The ceremony included the inductions of such candy pioneers as Eduard Haas III, inventor of the PEZ dispenser. Green and the other 11 living inductees each were treated to a “This Is Your Life”-style introduction, with photos displayed and a narrative about each of their lives.
“You kind of go back over 30 years and, wow,” she says. “A few good things happened.”
Green was the 1996 Small Business Person of the Year for South Carolina. Her chocolate concoctions have tempted the palates of the many famous faces who’ve come through Beaufort, including Barbra Streisand, Rob Morrow, Sally Field and, most recently, Gary Sinise. She’s been past president of Retail Confectioners International and has been very involved in the community from the beginning of her business. That relationship with Beaufort is one Green is particularly proud of.
“Our community really has taken over ownership of the business. It’s one of the stops people make when they’re touring their friends around Beaufort. They say ‘This is our candy store’” she says. “And that’s kind of neat.”