Islander Ann Peterson’s recipe for sea salt caramels and other chocolate treats is secret, but simple. It’s a combination of sugar, cream, butter, chocolate – of local ingredients and a homemade touch.
Peterson runs a candy business, Island Treats, out of her North-end home. She converted a small storage closet into a commercial kitchen last year, enlisting the help of her neighbors, friends and children to create locally sourced and produced treats. Every chocolate is hand-dipped and made to order. Even the packaging is homemade – a hole punch is used on each label to produce a “bite mark” effect.
Mercer Island has been a great place to start her business, which she officially launched in November 2013, she said.
After a few months of experimenting and giving chocolates to her friends as gifts, Peterson’s caramels, toffees, marshmallows and “pretzel thingies” are now available at Island Books, Terra Bella and Au Courant.
She also has a booth at the Island Farmers Market and will have a “pop-up” after the Giving from the Heart breakfast.
About 75 percent of her business comes from the Island, though she ships all over the country, especially during holidays like Christmas or Valentine’s Day. She’s looking to expand, but not too much.
“I don’t want it to get too big,” she said. “I have to be able to guarantee the quality.”
When she first started shipping her products off the Island, she made recipients send photos to make sure they had arrived in one piece.
“It’s like sending your baby off to college,” she said.
Peterson has three grown children of her own.
“My kids were wondering what I was going to do when I was an empty nester. For years I was the tennis mom, the water polo mom,” she said.
Now, she’s a skilled chocolatier and earnest small business owner. She recently purchased an enrober machine to expedite the process of creating chocolates.
Her background is in catering, which she is continuing today in a sense, making candies for weddings, corporate gifts, and of course, friends and family.
She has her classic best sellers – sea salt caramels and pretzel thingies – but that doesn’t prevent her from experimenting.
New creations include s’more pops and “candy grahams” – graham crackers coated with caramel and covered in chocolate. She has also coined an “all in mint thin” wrapped in blue and green foil in honor of the Seahawks.
Peterson said she was worried that caramels would be a “fad” that ended after the hype of endorsements from Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama faded.
“I didn’t want to jump in at first … But they’ve become a staple,” she said. “Sometimes it’s fun to have a treat.”
To learn more and to order treats, go to www.islandtreatsnw.com.