Sweet business goes home to Lafayette Village Village Sweets grand opening this Saturday
Village Sweets in Lafayette Village; grand opening this Saturday
By Laurie Gordon Lafayette — In the movie the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy travels to the far away Land of Oz only to learn, in the end, that there's no place like home. In the same way, Tracey Williams moved her business from Lafayette Village to Andover, but after a few years, it became crystal clear that the Village was where she belonged. This Saturday, 10 years after she first opened in the Village, the erstwhile Chocolate Parfait will have its grand opening as “Village Sweets” with a ribbon cutting and giveaways at 10 am. “I started Chocolate Parfait back in May 2008 when I purchased the business from the original owner in the Olde Lafayette Village,” Williams said. “The original name was Village Sweets, but at the time, due to some legal reasons, I couldn't keep that name. I felt that the name had to have the word 'chocolate' in it and I racked my brains for weeks and weeks and the only name I could think of was Chocolate Parfait. I felt that it explained that I was some kind of a desert shop and felt that the word 'chocolate' would tell people that I sold chocolate and the word 'parfait' would peek curiosity. So we had a 'chocolate parfait' ice cream sundae on the menu which I felt covered both the ice cream and chocolate.” Williams spent five years in Lafayette Village, and every year, she saw a decline in sales. “Customers just weren't visiting the village anymore because of the neglect from the previous owners,” she said. “Then once the village went into foreclosure and the bank took possession of it, the neglect escalated to the point where the place became a ghost town. Tenants started moving out and I was one of the last ones to leave - kicking and screaming I might add. I never wanted to leave because I always felt comfortable there and felt that my little candy shop fitted in just right there. But if you have no customers walking through your door then you can't pay your bills.” Williams didn't want to walk away from the business because she firmly believed she had a great product and offered good service. “I decided to make the move to Andover which is the town where I reside,” she said. “It was convenient because my son's school was right next door and my house was a mile away. So my daily travel was a one mile radius. Pretty much as soon as I opened up shop I felt that I'd made a big mistake - wished I'd have had a crystal ball when I made that decision. I realized that my specialty shop is not a drive by location but a foot traffic location. I was fortunate enough that most of my customers from Lafayette followed me to my new location, but getting new customers was hard - you wouldn't think it would be hard being on a main road but it's not on most people's minds to stop in for chocolate when they're on the road traveling from point A to point B.” Williams added, “Chocolate is an impulsive buy so you definitely need to be in a foot traffic location where people are walking around and stop in, then are inclined to make a purchase because we eat with our eyes. Needless to say I did spend my five years in Andover (which was the term of my lease). I didn't want to break my lease and I didn't want to close my shop because again, I truly believe I have a good product.” Last year, Williams and her husband started talking about where they were going to move their store once the lease expired in April 2018. Her husband suggested going back to Olde Lafayette Village. “At first I thought he was nuts and I pretty much dismissed the idea initially,” Williams said. “But then I drove over there one day and saw for myself what beautiful work the new owners had done and I fell in love with the place all over again. I walked down to my old store and memories just started flooding me. My son was just five months old when I purchased the store originally. I would bring him to work with me every day and sit him in his high chair and customers would interact with him. I had this feeling come over me that I needed to be back there. It always felt like home away from home for me.” So Williams sat down with the new owner and discussed a plan for April. In a wonderful twist of fate, she was able to take her old space back, but this time, instead of only having 75 percent of the building, she took the whole space. “We knocked down walls and built a chocolate making room for me to make my creations,” she said. There really is no difference between Chocolate Parfait and Village Sweets, Williams expalained. “It's really the same product, same owner, same service,” she said. “The only difference is that I feel the name Village Sweets belongs back in the Village. It's the name that everyone knew way back in the day when the village first opened in the 80's and it's in keeping with the quaintness of the village. Village Sweets basically says it all.” As to her longevity with the business, Williams said, “I think the thing that has kept me going these past 10 years in doing this business is the fact that I just love chocolate. Not only am I a chocolate addict — I mean I could literally live on chocolate — but I love making the chocolate. There's nothing more therapeutic to me than making chocolate. I get myself in a zone and I do like to be alone when I'm doing it because it's my therapy. I'm very excited to say that I now have my own separate room where I make most of the chocolate. Of course we'll still have a chocolate pot on the shop floor for our customers to see some of the chocolate making in progress, but the bulk of the work will be done in my secret room where I can zone out as much as I like. Nothing makes me happier than when I create something new. The latest thing is chocolate dipped orange peel - we literally cannot keep enough of it in stock. I also just made an orange peel and sea salted bark which is also popular as the combination of the sea salt and orange pair very nicely together.” She added, “I really feel that if you love what you do, then you'll never work another day in your life and that's how I feel. I wake up and feel excited to go to my store. It doesn't feel like a job to me." Williams explained that the store had a "soft opening" on May 24. "Our grand opening will be this Saturday June 16th where Mayor Hughes will do our official ribbon cutting at 10am,” Williams said. “We will offer chocolate samples of some of our most popular chocolates. We'll also be doing some giveaways.” Village Sweets is located in Olde Lafayette Village at 75 State Route 15 in Lafayette. Call 973-579-2203 or visit www.villagesweets.net. You can also find them on Facebook.