The week before Thanksgiving, we attended the American Heritage Historic Chocolate annual meeting of the Colonial Chocolate Society in Charlottesville. The meeting was held at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Tuesday evening we were picked up at our hotel and taken to the new Monticello Visitor Center for a meet and greet reception, which included hors d’oeuvrs and delightful adult beverages that incorporated chocolate, created by Chef Rhys of Colonial Williamsburg.
After a breathtaking ride up to the Robert H. Smith Center at Montalto, overlooking Monticello, Wednesday began with the introduction of William Clements, Vice President of American Heritage Chocolate (AHC). He discussed the seasonal AHC promotional materials (ribbon, recipe card, poster, display cards) and the use of them in our stores, how AHC had improved their order fulfillment rates to our stores and undertook upgrades to their public website. They were very excited about opening a new AHC display in the M&Ms World Store located in Time Square and the future publishing of two mass market books on the history of chocolate sponsored by Mars.
Darin Fernandez, Senior Marketing and Sales Development, and his team followed up with tips on growing our business by drawing attention and visitors to our sites, using the AHC materials and creating demand through social media, offering AHC display materials and their assistance with our programming and special events and most importantly, regularly scheduling a meeting with our AHC Representative so we can collaborate together.
Next was the introduction of last year’s Mars grant winners. We first heard from Dr. Deanna Pucciarelli, Ball State University, IN, who shared how AHC is funding her research on how the Industrial Revolution shaped chocolate, the of influence of chocolate as a food and its availability, price, technology, and taste. Next, the folks at Old Salem Museums and Gardens, located in Winston-Salem, NC, discussed how they continued their research on chocolate and its relation to their properties. Darlee Snyder and Joanna Robert oversee eleven (!) historic buildings and offer chocolate demos and open hearth cooking classes several times a year. Several of their recipes include AHC chocolate pork loin, bacon dipped in chocolate, and chocolate pie. Third, Stuart Lilie from Fort Ticonderoga spoke of the relation of chocolate in the everyday life of a soldier during the American Revolution and how they were able to document their findings thanks to their Mars grant.
We at the Old North Foundation spoke on the success we have had since receiving our grant for Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop last year. We used the funds in a variety of ways:
- to purchase authentic18th century clothing and chocolate making equipment for our living history demonstrations
- to market AHC/Captain Jackson’s products
- to develop school outreach programs relating to the domestic and industrial side of chocolate in colonial Boston
- to plan for the future growth and expansion of Captain Jackson’s.
We experienced the flavor of chocolate, tasting chocolate in its natural state of 100% cacao through the different spice stages added by AHC, or as we like to think of it, tasting chocolate from dirt to pure pleasure! They related that taste sensation to the research and findings that Mars had been funding for the past decade on the health and wellness of chocolate and the flavanols it contains. Mars asserts that a healthy diet includes moderate consumption of chocolate with high levels of flavanols, such as Dove Dark Chocolate and AHC products. It will promote good vascular functions and strengthens mental health.
The day ended with meeting Thomas Jefferson and a lovely candle light tour of his home, followed by an incredible banquet and the announcement of this year’s Mars grant winners. The following day included Taste Studio by Chef Rhys and a visit to the Shop at Monticello to see how they market and promote the AHC products.
After this year’s Colonial Chocolate Society Conference, we can safely say there’s simply no one else out there doing the same sort of living history, informational chocolate programs that we offer at Captain Jackson’s. It’s a challenge incorporating an educational demonstration within a retail shop in small setting, but we do it well. Our visitor attendance increased by 60% this year!
We’re delighted to work together with the historic division of the Mars Company to enrich the lives of all those who visit the Old North Church campus and Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop through the pleasures and fascinating history of chocolate!