Chocolate sweetens the deal for local sweethearts

The Recorder, February 13, 2017, By Shelby Ashline.

DEERFIELD — For many local residents, buying chocolate for Valentine’s Day has become a deeply ingrained tradition. But how did it all begin?

Valentine’s Day may have first found its soul mate in chocolate in the mid-1800s at the hands of Richard Cadbury, son of John Cadbury who founded the Cadbury chocolate company.

According to, the notion of Valentine’s Day as a holiday to celebrate romantic love had taken over most of the English-speaking world, with Victorians showering each other with elaborate cards and gifts. At the same time, Cadbury had recently improved its chocolate-making technique to extract pure cocoa butter from whole beans, producing a more palatable drinking chocolate.

“This process resulted in an excess amount of cocoa butter, which Cadbury used to produce many more varieties of what was then called ‘eating chocolate,’” according to the website. “Richard recognized a great marketing opportunity for the new chocolates and started selling them in beautifully decorated boxes that he himself designed.”

Images of Cupids and roses quickly came to adorn the heart-shaped boxes, and though Richard Cadbury didn’t patent the box, it is widely believed he was the first to produce one.

Though chocolate as a Valentine’s Day gift was originally a marketing ploy by Cadbury, the idea spread like wildfire. Today, local residents can pick up heart-shaped boxes sold by various candy companies, including the local chocolatiers at Richardson’s Candy Kitchen in Deerfield.

“Usually the 13th and 14th are our busiest days of the year,” said Kathie Williams, owner of Richardson’s Candy Kitchen. “You have to prepare a lot just for two days.”

Williams said the shop begins preparing for Valentine’s Day with the start of the new year, adding more staff, extending its hours, and on Feb. 13, even using a police officer to direct traffic from the driveway onto Routes 5 and 10.

Local residents bustle in and out of the shop to buy treats for their significant others, children, friends and neighbors.

“Part of it is just buying something sweet for your loved one,” Williams said. “And also, the time of year. It’s February, it’s cold, and chocolate cheers you up.”

Customers of the shop shared how getting chocolate each Valentine’s Day is something their loved ones look forward to as a special, tasty treat.

“It’s sweets for your sweetheart,” said Janice Katsoulis of Turners Falls, who went to Richardson’s Saturday morning to buy sweets for her grandchildren. “It goes together, always … And it’s a legitimate reason to have chocolate … You don’t have to feel guilty.”

Some local sweethearts have carried on the chocolate-giving tradition for decades. Tim Healey of West Hartford, Conn., drove up to South Deerfield to help his 94-year-old father-in-law. Due to mobility issues, Healey said his father-in-law would have a hard time getting to Richardson’s Candy Kitchen to buy sweets for his wife.

“I’m happy to be his legs so he can take care of his bride,” Healey said, with a bag of chocolates in hand.