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Monday, June 27, 2016

Sweet new business in Cherokee

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rita Pierson displays some of her new chocolate product line. Her Chocolate Temperer machine is at the lower right. Photo by Dan Whitney
Rita Pierson now in production at 'Cocoa Bellissimo'

Cherokee resident Rita Pierson has been involved with the art of photography for more than 30 years, but she recently moved into another area of art - "The art of divine indulgence."

Acting on an idea which she said had been in the back of her mind for "six years or so," Pierson recently started a new business in Cherokee. Following training as a chocolatier at Ecole Chocolat, she acquired space for a production site at the Kountry Klass Mall (the former Garfield School, 515 W. Cedar St.) on November 1, 2010, and, following a successful Health Inspection on November 15, opened for business.

Chocolatiers use the finished couverture (think "covering" or "coating") produced by chocolate makers to make chocolate candies - bars and truffles, for example.

Pierson's business, then, in simplest terms, is making chocolate candies. Not your everyday, store-bought milk chocolate candies, but smooth, dark chocolate, generally considered to be the smoothest chocolate because it uses more cocoa butter. Dark chocolates also have more healthy antioxidants and enhanced nutritional value than milk chocolates.

She said that some people say they don't like dark chocolate, but she's out to change their minds. Rita has named her business Cocoa Bellissimo. Cocoa, of course, is the prime ingredient in chocolate, and "bellissimo" is Italian for "beautiful to the senses."

Pierson has purchased a machine to temper the chocolate, because she said that performing this important process by machine is a much more efficient method than doing it by hand. The Temperer is her first piece of equipment, but she figures that as she gains more experience in the field and adds more regular customers, she will expand and add any new equipment she might need.

Rita makes several products, including Chocolate Tavolettas, which are "just the right size to share with a good friend or loved one ... or to stash away for yourself to satisfy your daily chocolate cravings." She has made several varieties of tavolettas, including orange peel and caramelized cocoa nibs, raspberry and cocoa nibs, strawberry and sea salt almonds, cinnamon roasted almonds, and cinnamon-infused apple with caramel.

The "Chocolate Tavoletta" is one product which is produced at Cocoa Bellissimo in Cherokee. Varieties include (left to right) Orange Peel and caramelized cocoa nibs, Raspberry and cocoa nibs, Strawberry and sea salt almonds, Cinnamon Roasted almonds, and Cinnamon-infused apple with caramel. Photo by Dan Whitney
Pierson also makes "Simply Festives," small decorative chocolates which she makes available in quantities for a party, wedding, graduations, family gatherings, or other special events. Theses are a custom-ordered item, she said, so customers need to give her as much notice as they can when ordering. Rita said that other products will be added to her line in time, as the business grows.

At this point, Pierson is concentrating on wholesale business. She has several customers who have purchased her products, including Prairie Moon Books in Sheldon, Hands Around the Plain Gift Store in Sioux Center, the Blue Monkey Gallery and Studio in Archer, and Cat Tale Country Wines in Ocheyedan (which plans to incorporate her chocolate into one of their homemade wines).

She has made her contacts through referrals, and she also has taken part in several shows. She will probably eventually move into the retail end of the business, but is in no hurry at this time, as she establishes more contacts and learns her way around the business.

Pierson, who also operates Pierson Photography in Cherokee with her husband Doug Pierson, is a member of Retail Confectioners International and also participates in discussions and continued education at Ecole Chocolat.

Pierson will be displaying her products at the 'City Lights... Women's Night Out' Marketplace Session at Cherokee Western Iowa Tech Community College in Cherokee this Saturday, Feb. 26, from 5-6:30 p.m.

She can also be reached at 712-229-3028 (please leave a message), by e-mail at purchase.cocoabellissimo@gmail.com, or on Facebook. She will have a web site, www.cocoabellissimo.com, and plans to sell products at the site. Unfortunately, the site is still "under construction," and so is not available at this time.

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