Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

We have chocolate people.  These chocolate people are our tribe.


Although we each have our own dialects we speak and understand the same language.  Among these sweet friends are people who met my parents years ago, when Snowflake Chocolates was just the beginning of a dream. These are the people who reached out to us as we slowly became more involved in the business. There are old friends and new friends to be made at every turn.  We meet once a year at the annual candy convention in a random city somewhere in the United States. 

Retail Confectioners International (RCI) is an organization founded for chocolate and candy makers in 1917.  This annual convention brings together chocolate and candy makers with vendors that support the candy making industry. Manufacturing  equipment, packaging products, wholesale items are all there to sneak a peak, purchase and ask questions. It is five full days of meetings, educational seminars, tours, an industry expo, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We gather to show off our wares during "Candy Clinic" and vie for the prize.  Heavy discussions are had during the ever popular "Kettle Talk" where folks offer suggestions to solve problems from recipe to supplier issues.  It is an amazing, exhausting week for all.

Like anything in life, what could be a rather dull informative event is turned into an exceptional family reunion.  The RCI staff, who I personally refer to as the fabulous four, are the backbone of this organization and the stellar organizers of a crazy week.  Hats off to Angie, Amy, Lacey and April.  These ladies while always professional pull it all off.  The continuous herding of a crowd of people from one place to another, fielding complaints and questions, with a smile and always approachable. They are sweet, funny, energetic, and enthusiastic.  Their organization skills are above par. Most appreciated by this candy maker is their ability to 'shake it off' when it is time to hit the dance floor.  Well done ladies. 

The heart of this industry is the candy makers.  So many of us come from humble beginnings.  We share the stories of grandparents and great grandparents who started from nothing.  The tales of immigrants, poverty and hard work are woven into the history of so many of us. From the basement cooking kitchens and converted dining rooms to multiple store fronts and large corporations there is always a story. We are survivors of the industry. We laugh (a lot), we cry (sometimes), but we offer support through it all.   We commiserate over customer interactions.  Laughter and unbelief of the audacity of some human beings never cease to amaze any of us.  

We trade the memories of days gone by.  When life was simpler. Business deals were made on a handshake.  Character and integrity were part of your chocolate contract and your business name meant something.  Those were the days when chocolate coating companies were family owned.  When payments on a chocolate order were made the day after Christmas, often in person with a handshake and smile between two old friends. 

The spirit of my grandfather and uncle roam the aisles of the expo, moving from booth to booth with me along with them is Sam the Candy Man.  Sam was my grandfather's chocolate salesman.  For years after my grandfather's death, Sam kept Grandpap's memory alive with stories we had never heard.  When Sam left us the chocolate shows and conventions seemed a little less bright. To this day many of us speak of him with great fondness.   Every year there are more names to add to heaven's sweet shop. We always pause to honor and remember the incredible individuals and the mark they left on the land of chocolate. They are gone from this earth but not from our hearts.

The absolute great joy of this week is seeing dear friends and spending concentrated time with them.  No one can possibly understand what the chocolate business is like unless you have lived it.  Every industry has it's own "stuff".  We certainly have ours.  These are the people who have an innate understanding of what each chocolate season means.  These people share the knowledge of what it means to have the soul sucked out of you on December 19th like clockwork.  They know the butt dragging, exhaustion that hits when don't think you have another minute of work left in you.  They also know what it takes to dig deep and find that spark to get you through the season. These are the people who understand the dream of a roast beef dinner with mash potatoes, gravy and fresh steamed vegetables instead of cold pizza or Chinese food in the month of December. These peeps understand the groan of disgust when you have to order Valentine's Day candy in the middle of the Christmas season.

There is no mercy in a chocolate shop at Christmas.  We have all draped ourselves across the cooling tunnel of an enrober that has suddenly decided that it needed to rest in the middle of running an entire batch of buttercrunch. It is in that moment the posture of defeat and utter fatigue. We have all been that person that has had to walk out on chaos to take care of a family member in need.  We have also been that person left behind to pick up the pieces and carry on. We are the people who always say we will do better next Christmas, we will be more prepared next year and yet somehow we fail in this promise to ourselves.  We are bone weary and bleary eyed as we look around at our family and employees who have given their all.  Our hearts our warmed by the thought of the tradition that our chocolates have become for other families during the the cost of our own family Christmas. 

We are the people that smile through clenched teeth and repeat the mantra that the customer may not always be right, but the customer is always the customer. Together we watch the snowstorm of the century gather strength across the country just in time for Valentine's Day.  We all wonder what area it will hit, the timing and whether we will have to have a "Broken Heart Valentine Sale."

We are the people who always know when Easter is. Together we know the pain of carpel tunnel syndrome from tying millions of bows over the years.  We know the repetitive pain of holding a funnel and the rhythmic pumping of the stick as we fill thousands for bunny molds and drop tiny non pareils by hand. We pay our dues with the ghosts of our family behind us.  We say we never want to work as hard as they did and that there must be a better way.  Of course there is but most of us struggle to find it. 

Yet, here we are hugging our friends with the love, frustration and joy of another chocolate season come and gone.  Every hug holds genuine affection for each other, the strength of respect , a bundle of support, and pure delight in seeing each other.   We are all entwined in the dreams and commitment of the past generations that have brought us to one another.  Together we face the uncertainty of a changing world and cocoa market.  We are the little guys fighting to be seen and heard by the big conglomerates who have bought out our beloved family chocolate manufacturers.  We are solid in our loyalty to our family and to our business.  We are also haunted by the thought that at some point will we too have to sell out to "the man". 

Our people, our tribe is fierce.  We look forward in hope and expect positive things for ourselves and each other.  Our good bye hugs are strong, full of purpose and well wishes.  There will be emails, texts and occasional phone calls as we navigate each holiday through the next chocolate season.  We know not what tomorrow brings, but we look forward to that next years sweet hug.  When we can all say "Hello my chocolate friend! I've missed you so!". 

Parting is such sweet sorrow....until next year. <3  




Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.