She is the Willy Wonka of East Longmeadow.
Maureen Basile, proprietor of Maureen’s Sweet Shoppe, has been making chocolates for most of her life.
“It began with my grandparents during my childhood.
It was something for us to do together as a family. They would come over to the house and we would all make chocolates together, especially around the holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas. Iwould also go to my grandparents’ house where they taught me how to bake, cook and all things sweet,” Basile said about a hobby that would later grow into a livelihood. It was Basile’s father-in-law who helped to push her into the retail market.
“One Christmas I taught my husband how to make toffee and we made chocolate bowls to put them in and wrapped them up all fancy for Christmas. It was then that I started talking about my dream of opening a candy store. One day later that year, my father-in-law called me and said he had the perfect spot to rent. He led me to Eastfield Mall and before I knew it, I was signing a lease,” Basile said.
So, it all began with a kiosk at the once popular mall in Springfield back in 2009. At the time, Basile was only selling other people’s candy and chocolates, but that wasn’t her dream.
“We did that only for a year, so we could make enough money to purchase equipment such as chocolate melters and fudge kettles and to move to a storefront where I could make and sell my own chocolates. So, in 2010 we opened a shop on Harkness Avenue in East Longmeadow and remained in that location for four years before moving to a more central location at Center Square in East Longmeadow. It was the best thing we ever did, because we didn’t have a lot of exposure on Harkness Avenue and had to rely greatly on advertising,” she said
It’s not a requirement to be a “chocoholic” in order to become a chocolatier, but Basile places herself in that category saying she was a “chocoholic as a kid.”
“I liked almost anything, but especially chocolates with caramel which are still my favorites, and those with nuts and peanut butter that anyone would give me. As I grew older, I became more discerning in taste, enjoying finer toffees and good quality caramels,” she said.
Their mission at Maureen’s Sweet Shoppe is “to create homemade confections the way you remember from childhood. We believe small batch, made to order, and carefully crafted chocolates are an art and we seek to be the best chocolate artists in the area.”
And that is exactly what sets Basile’s chocolates — whether milk, white or dark — apart from popular name-brand boxed chocolates found on the shelves of grocery stores, pharmacies, department stores and more.
“They often sit on the shelves for a long time, even before being shipped to stores. Ours are made fresh and don’t stay on our shelves for long. The other advantage to having your own shop is personal service. I can talk with my customers and answer their questions. You also get to know their personal tastes and what they might be looking for when they come into the store. And when customers stop in, they can watch us dipping chocolates and see our production area. We also specialize in presentation. The product is always delicious but, somehow, when perfectly packaged, the visual makes it taste ‘oh so much sweeter,’” Basile said.
Her busiest times of the year are at Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day, which is right around the corner. It is at those holiday times that Basile and her crew find themselves making chocolates nearly 12 hours every day.
For Valentine’s Day, new and loyal customers at Maureen’s Sweet Shoppe will find all kinds of sweet treats to gift to their sweetheart.
“When customers come in to shop for Valentine’s Day, they are typically looking for their loved one’s favorites. Truffles are extremely popular at this time of year and we sell many flavors from plain chocolate to coconut and from raspberry to caramel. Of course, we have plenty of heart-shaped boxes that are already pre-filled or you can choose what chocolates you want in them. If you don’t want to spend the extra money for a heart-shaped box, we have beautiful square boxes with a heart design on the cover. For something really special, we have heart-shaped boxes actually made of chocolate that you can fill with a selection of your own. And, for the kids, we have chocolate hearts and pops, hot chocolate sticks and other candy,” Basile said, who adds a finishing touch with red ribbons on packages to make them extra pretty before placing them in a special bag.
Not too long after Valentine’s Day, the Easter season will begin — Easter is March 31 — as Basile clears the shelves to make way for the next holiday rush. Customers can expect an array of decorated Easter baskets to choose from, some even with stuffed animals, whether pre-made or made-to-order, as well as chocolate bunnies both large and small, chocolate crosses, cream filled eggs including fudge, marshmallow, peanut butter and other flavors, chocolate bird’s nests with jelly beans in the center, all flavors of jelly beans, and much more to choose from.
During the rest of the year, chocolate truffles and turtles are the store’s biggest sellers alongside caramel chocolates, both salted and regular, all kinds of fudge, and chocolate-covered marshmallow pops. Chocolate lovers also have a wide selection of bites to choose from such as raspberry creams, peanut butter, orange creams, coconut, nut clusters, nougats, toffee alongside several varieties of nut barks, chocolate covered nuts and coffee beans and fudge of all kinds. And there is still more to choose from – chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate pretzels, chocolate covered Oreos, caramel chocolate popcorn, nonpareils both really big and regular size, chocolate caramel apples, barks including white chocolate popping with color from Fruity Pebbles added in, and much more.
For non-chocolate lovers, if there are any, Basile’s shelves are also stocked with Swedish Fish, jelly beans, Sour Patch candies, gummi bears, sour worms and fruit slices.
Also, for something extra special when gifting her chocolates to someone, the store has a large collection of beautiful music boxes that can be customized and filled with the recipient’s favorite confections.
“They are perfect for all occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, and as memorial gifts,” Basile said.
Basile can also add her special touch with beautiful chocolates for birthday parties, workplace functions, fundraising, banquets, showers, weddings and other events and special occasions. Out in the community, she recently spent 17 days at The Big E in West Springfield selling her chocolates to visitors inside the Massachusetts Building, and provided her tasty confections for the gift shop at Bright Nights at Forest Park.
The chocolatier enjoys putting her artistry to work on custom orders.
“We have some 8,000 molds from which we can make all kinds of things including seashells, dinosaurs which are very popular with the kids, dogs, horses, cartoon characters, dinosaurs, flip flops, ice skates, hearts, cars, clowns, cats, lions, elephants, hot air balloons, teddy bears, and even occupational molds for doctors, nurses, construction workers, hair dressers and so many more. The list is endless,” Basile said.
When she isn’t enjoying one or two or three of her own chocolates, Basile admits to trying others, but only for sampling purposes.
“To this day I continue to go out and try what others are making. It’s all about finding out what they do better than us and how we can always improve our own line of chocolates,” she said.
MAUREEN’S SWEET SHOPPE IS LOCATED AT 6 CENTER SQ. IN
EAST LONGMEADOW, MASSACHUSETTS. HOURS ARE TUESDAY THROUGH FRIDAY FROM 11 A.M. TO 5 P.M. AND SATURDAY FROM 11 A.M. TO 4 P.M.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CALL (413) 222-2642 OR FILL OUT A
“CONTACT US” FORM ON THEIR WEBSITE AT MAUREENSSWEETSHOPPE.COM
Posted on 2024-02-01
Posted on 2024-02-01
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Posted on 2/1/2024
Posted on 2/1/2024
Posted on 2/1/2024