If you’re like me, you may only have ever passed the large pink building on the corner of Old Dixie and 16th Street, but you’ll certainly recognize the smiling Ronald McDonald waving perpetually from the corner.
Of course, you won’t find any hamburgers inside this shop. That’s because this is the home of the How Sweet It Is Chocolate Factory, and its treasures are on the sweeter side of life.
The Ronald statue, a life-sized representation of the famous clown, is one of many curiosities that entices passersby of this chocolate-factory-cum-antique-shop. Part museum, part sweets store, the atmosphere itself is geared more for a trip down memory lane than it is a traditional chocolate factory—albeit a trip that’ll net you a delectable morsel or cone of ice cream. But that’s what makes up the chocolate store’s charm.
The moment you pull into the parking lot—a stone driveway with ample room—you’ll feel you’ve slipped into an earlier century, spurred by the classic prop plane and authentic horse-drawn carriage out front. One could spend an entire afternoon just ogling the sights outside—including a friendly-looking cow statue complete with fenced pasture—or simply catch a breather on the shaded patio. But since the chocolate was what we’d come for and that was on the inside, we ventured indoors.
Luckily, the inside doesn’t fail to bolster the experience, and in fact turns the dial all the way up to 11. With gizmos and gadgets galore, the inside is a picker’s dream. Odds and ends line the entrance, inviting you onward, past the hand-dipped Working Cow ice cream freezer, and on toward the “Country Store” within. It’s here that you’ll find the heart of the place.
And no, I don’t just mean the chocolate, though that is front and center as you explore the narrow aisles. The antiques on display are lovingly chosen and arranged, if bordering on a bit too replete—a large enough crowd might be better off sending a few of their number inside at a time. But the collection is sure to rouse any antiquer with rare trinkets from pre-Poppy and Branch Troll dolls to ornate glass lamps that’ll have you instantly regretting the decision to bring along the three-year old. Our five-year-old was in heaven.
“Right, right,” you say, “all well and good, but what about the chocolate?” Well, you’ll be happy, Impatient Reader, to discover that the chocolate is just as replete and abundant as the antiques. From a wide array of in-house-made fudges to chocolate-covered potato chips, even a Twinkie slathered in the good stuff. Truffles and butter creams, Oreos and chocolate chip cookies—all of it homemade and hand-dipped by a husband and wife team. How Sweet It Is has enough smothered and covered goodness to shake a couple sticks at and then some—the some being the sugar-free stuff available for those in need of a lighter more dietary-friendly chocolate fix.
You’ll delight to know that the chocolate itself was a hit. The family each found something that piqued their fancy—the youngest some cookies, my wife the truffles. And each and every piece went down without so much as a peep of dissatisfaction. Even I, a try-my-best health nut, found something—a dark oval of chocolate deliciousness, cutely monikered the “chocaholic diet pill.”
It was easily some of the best dark chocolate I’ve had in a while. And though they didn’t have me fooled about the diet, they just may have made a staunch supporter of that adage that dark chocolate is good for the heart.
Oh, and for those in need of gift ideas, How Sweet It Is also offers assorted boxes of truffles, and even provides gift-wrapping. What’s that? Your mother lives out of town? Just ship her that belated chocolate birthday present right from the store. She’ll be so excited, she’ll forget all about the tardiness.
All in all, How Sweet It Is is more than just a run-of-the-mill chocolate factory. It’s a place with a lot of character. That shows both through the uncharacteristic setup of the “factory” itself and the wide-assortment of fun and delicious chocolates. If you haven’t been, it’s worth checking out, if only to taste a sample of the chocolate or try a scoop or two of Working Cow ice cream—an exceptional homemade Florida brand. If you have been, then you’ll know why I say, I may have just found a new favorite chocolatier.
Check out his "unique" photography and random musings on Instagram