Nutty Chocolate by WCAX

Middlesex, Vermont - January 23, 2009

Who ever said you shouldn't play with your food? Steph Rieke wanted to make fun the main ingredient of her food business when she gave up teaching to launch a granola company in 2003, at just 23 years old. Rieke says, "I like that I can produce different things."

She sold her nut-filled granola labeled Nutty Steph's to top restaurants and online, but when she mixed granola with dark chocolate, it was a recipe for expansion. Rieke explains, "The whole idea of having a chocolate shop happened really spontaneously."

A Brattleboro chocolate company was closing down, so Rieke snapped up the equipment. A Stowe candy shop was getting rid of its case, and the businesswoman got that, too, to start building her new line.

Parts of her line are downright naughty. "Tropical intercourse" is what she calls the marriage of a dried banana and pineapple ring dipped in chocolate. It's a top seller for Valentine's Day. It may be a gag gift, but the chocolate business is part of a serious redevelopment project.

The company's public outreach director Trish Denton says, "I think [our location has] become a destination."

 Nutty Steph's storefront and production are in the old Camp Meade, an underused Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps facility that developers brought back from the brink. One goal was to give drivers a reason to stop in Middlesex as opposed to just driving through.

Denton adds, "We're bouncing back. It's really exciting to be a part of this revitalization of Middlesex."

Steph Rieke hopes the new home base will help her follow in the footsteps of other successful "Made in Vermont" food companies that trade on the state's reputation for freshness, natural ingredients, and traditions like dairy and maple.

Rieke beams, "I'm glad to be in Vermont because we've retained some of those skills to make food!"

The Red Hen Baking Company is also in that Camp Meade complex, and a weaver is set to move in soon. Click here to visit Nutty Steph's website.

Jack Thurston - WCAX News