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Love Chocolate? Then This Club's For You

The Chocolate Lover's Club of Princeton is a passion for owner Joanne Reilly, who spent 20 years working in sales and marketing before embracing her entrepreneurial spirit and love of fine chocolate.

The walls are covered with double chocolate, white table linen, butter cookie and Swiss chocolate paint colors.

The hardwood floors are stained a deep, rich, dark brown and soothing jazz plays in the background.

A sign reads, “Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate.”

Welcome to Chocolate Lover's Club of Princeton, which will open its retail business by the end of the September and its chocolate production the following the month at 830 State Road in Princeton Township (next to Lucy’s Ravioli Kitchen). Beginning today, Sept. 8, the store will be open for a sneak peek for a couple of hours each day around noon.

Chocolate Lover's Club of Princeton is a retail store, a gift shop, a place to pick up a frozen summer treat or baked good, take chocolate-making classes, tour the chocolate production facility, even rent the space for a birthday party or team-building exercise.

Formerly located in Forrestal Village, the expanded location in Princeton Township allows for a full chocolate making “bean to bar” production, the process of transforming cocoa beans into a chocolate bar.

Chocolate Lover's Club of Princeton is a passion for owner Joanne Reilly of West Trenton, who spent 20 years working in sales and marketing before embracing her entrepreneurial spirit and love of fine chocolate.

“I would have totally regretted if I hadn’t (opened the business), I just had to do it,” Reilly said. “I get up in the morning and I’m excited. It’s exciting, it sounds sort of schlocky but 99 percent of the time, we make people happy. That’s a fun business to be in.”

Reilly grew up in Canada, and although she liked chocolate, she was neither a chocolate aficionado nor a baker. It wasn’t until she launched a small business assembling chocolate gift baskets out of a coop store part-time in Trenton several years ago that she became interested in the fine chocolate, or “craft” industry.

Craft chocolate is artisan made in small batches using hand-roasted beans and no additives, Reilly said.

“What the craft movement is all about is giving you a lot of chocolate and little bit of sugar, so you’re not getting all the shelf stabilizers, the preservatives, the emulsifiers, a watered-down chocolate product,” Reilly said. “You’re dealing with a pure chocolate product. It’s a whole different experience.”

Craft chocolates are chock full of antioxidants and leave you feeling satiated and satisfied, she said.

“We all grew up believing that eating chocolate is a sin, but one we’re all willing to go to hell for,” Reilly said. “But when you eat good chocolate, there’s a level of chocolate you should be eating for a healthy food regiment.”

While working in Trenton, Reilly began attending food shows as her interest in chocolate grew her. In 2010, she opened the Chocolate Lover's Club of Princeton.

Then she toured a chocolate production facility in New York City and decided that she wanted to expand her business. Now she’s partnered with several collaborators who will round out the full chocolate experience.

Melanie Flores will make chocolate on site. Cheryl Olivia of Sweetly Spirited Cupcakes will make the baked goods, Fernanda Filho will provide homemade frozen deserts in the summer and Nicole Helme will coordinate children’s events.    

In the meantime, Reilly said old customers are waiting for the new shop to open and new customers are just discovering her.

“For the people who are just discovering us, they’re like ‘There’s a Chocolate Lovers Club? I want to join,’” Reilly said.

Chocolate's Lovers Club of Princeton will be open Mon-Fri 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The store is located at 830 State Road in Princeton Township. The phone number is 609-851-0660.

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