More and more women are leaving the corporate world to start their own businesses.

Some turn hobbies into careers while others persue passions long forgotten. Some stumble upon opportunities or perhaps a combination of all of the above.

This was the case for Joanne Reilly, corporate alumna, intrepid entrepreneur, dreamer, believer, hard worker.

Several years into the chocolate business Joanne has opened her dream location.

Chocolate Lovers of Princeton is located on Route 206 next to Lucy’s Ravioli. The store boasts a chocolate shop,classroom and event space as well a chocolate kitchen facility where various craftspeople make their own creations. This includes a baker, confectioners, and a bean to bar chocolate maker. Each artisan creates products for sale in the chocolate shop.

Joanne herself is still involved in chocolate making with her product line called Dip’t in Chocolate.

Joanne admits that this has been a long and winding road. Or perhaps maybe a staircase that had to be climbed. After an initial stumble with a partner in a mail order bakery business, Joanne found herself having to scramble to reinvent the baking business into a chocolate business. The first rung was being part of a retail co op selling chocolates at retail.

The second rung was buying chocolate equipment and making her own chocolate. The third rung was opening a full time retail store with capabilities for small gatherings. The fourth rung was an event space with a full chocolate kitchen, and the fifth rung is the current space which has allowed for another business expansion.

This is the model she was motivated to make happen after she visited Mast Bros chocolate in Brooklyn. The chocolate is made on site and customers can take tours of the facility.

Now that this is a reality, Joanne wants chocolate lovers to partake in the full chocolate experience. Chocolate Lovers also features fine chocolate from other craft chocolate makers from around the country. Each month a “meet-the-maker” event is planned so chocolate makers can greet the customers who support them. An event schedule will be posted to the new Chocolate Lovers website shortly.

Now that Valentine’s Day is approaching the team is gearing up for the biggest of Chocolate Holidays. People have always relied on chocolate as a romantic gift, and now that chocolate has been touted as a healthy alternative to other sweets, there is even more reason to give the gift of chocolate. Chocolate Lovers features chocolate that has not been commercially processed, nothing artificial is ever added, and customers can find, sugar free, nut free, soy free, dairy free, and gluten free chocolates in the shop. Gift certificates for tastings and chocolate making classes are available. And Chocolate Lovers offers shipping and local delivery for all their products.

Customers often comment to Joanne that she has the best job in the world, and there aren’t many days when she can disagree with that. Would she do it over again? Yes, only sooner.

Chocolate Lovers Club, 830 State Road, Princeton. 609-921-9100. See ad, page 20.

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