Bellbrook Chocolate Shoppe founder Betty Blose remembers the events of March 31, 1999 with great clarity.
“I was in the process of moving the shop from Bellbrook to here in the Cross Pointe Centre,” Blose said. But that morning, Blose was taking a break from the move and was preparing to drive to Richmond, Indiana to pick up her granddaughter.
Those plans changed abruptly when Blose saw the story that appeared on the cover of the Lifestyle section of the Dayton Daily News that morning. Written by former food editor and restaurant reviewer Ann Heller, the story detailed a newspaper panel’s taste-test of locally available Easter chocolate bunnies. Bellbrook Chocolate Shoppe had captured the #1 ranking.
“In the blind tasting, the decisive winner for the panelists was the chocolate rabbit from Bellbrook Chocolate Shoppe,” Heller wrote. “That bunny, made from the house blend of both milk and dark chocolate, was the first-place choice of five of the seven tasters.”
In second place, for the record, was Esther Price Candies. The newspaper hasn’t done an identical taste test since the story was published 20 years ago.
Blose had one thought on her mind: “I’ve got to make chocolate rabbits, and quickly.” She asked a close family friend to make the drive to Richmond to pick up her granddaughter. And she got to work.
Customers old and new responded to the newspaper story with enthusiasm, just as Blose had suspected they would. A line had formed at the door even before the shop opened. As the morning progressed, customers kept coming until the line was out the door and down the sidewalk. Later in the day, their supply was sold out.
“I ended up running an ad thanking customers and apologizing to those who couldn’t get one,” Blose said.
The story and reaction to it helped put Bellbrook Chocolate Shoppe on the map, and Blose said she will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its publication by offering a 20 percent discount on the “No. 1 Chocolate Rabbit” on the actual anniversary date, Sunday, March 31. The shop is open from noon to 4 p.m. that day. The discount will bring the price of the seven-and-a-half-ounce solid chocolate rabbit from $10.95 to $8.75. Personalized monogramming is available.
There are, of course, all kinds of other Easter candies available, from cream eggs of all sizes and flavors to decorated shortbread cookies in many shapes and sizes. All of the chocolate is hand-made in the shop with no preservatives and with Bellbrook’s signature chocolate, which blends milk chocolate and dark chocolate.
But there’s no doubt which item will be the star of the show.
“This chocolate rabbit is part of a lot of our customers’ family traditions,” Blose said. “It is being passed down to multiple generations.”
• Bellbrook Chocolate Shoppe will mark its 35th anniversary this November. Betty Blose and her son and daughter-in-law, Marshall and Laura Blose, say they are still working on details of how to celebrate that milestone. For more information, go to BellbrookChocolates.com.