It’s been more than 20 years since Kelly Reetz learned how to hand-make chocolate candy.
Reetz’ shop, Victorian Chocolate Company, features traditional confections as well as those of his own invention.
Reetz has been making chocolate in Lebanon since 1988. At first he sold wholesale, but opened his storefront on Grove Street in 2005.
Reetz learned his craft from Ralph Bateman, former owner of Burst’s Chocolate in Corvallis, in the late 1980s.
“(Bateman) helped mentor me and get my business under me,” Reetz said. “He would be 102 years old this year.”
Bateman taught Reetz the craft of making chocolate, and passed on some practical advice as well.
“Ralph always told me no matter how many times you make a batch, always keep your formula book out,” Reetz said. “I know from experience, he was right.”
Reetz said one of the first things Bateman taught him how to make is old-fashioned cream center chocolates.
For new ideas, he reads a lot of cook books and has a long list of ideas he wants to try.
“I’ve always got plenty of people wanting to test it out,” Reetz said.
One of the benefits Reetz sees in having a shop, rather than just making candy for wholesale, is the customer feedback.
“You put them out and see what the reaction is,” Reetz said. “It’s nice to see what they think about it.”
Friday, Reetz made a fresh batch of rocky-road hearts, a popular chocolate. A root beer float candy is Reetz’ latest creation.
“Valentine’s is the craziest time because everyone wants everything all at once,” Reetz said. “Usually the day before Valentine’s is the biggest one.”
Victorian Chocolate is normally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but will be open at least 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. for Valentine’s Day.
“As long as there are people coming, we’re open,” Reetz said.