By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette — Mary Ann Hess is proof that if you work hard at your dreams, eventually you're going to get somewhere great.
In this case, that somewhere is really great — the presidential inauguration planned for Washington DC, on Jan. 20.
Hess, owner of Niagara Honeymoon Sweets, has been invited to send her chocolates to an Inaugural Celebration at the Fairmont Hotel. When partygoers enter the "Taste of New York" room, they'll be able to sample the chocolate medallions she makes that are molded with an image of the world famous Niagara Falls.
It all started when Hess received an email from The New York State Society, which is holding the inaugural event.
Beverly Ann Frey, vice president of the society, had been visiting friends when she stopped at the Made in America Store in Elma and spotted Niagara's Honeymoon Sweets there. "I saw her display and thought, oh, what a lovely thing to have at our event."
The New York State Society's gala could be one of the dozen or so events the newly elected president will attend the evening preceding his public inauguration, Frey said. No one knows exactly where the president will go that night, but after the elections the many organizations sponsoring events will apply to be sanctioned as a possible place for the president to party.
"We would love if that would happen," Frey said of the sanctioning.
So too would Hess, who has been working diligently for the last eight years to grow her company, working the entire time at her day job as a barber/beautician at Bucky's Barbershop on Hyde Park Boulevard. But, as proof that hard work pays off, her success as a chocolatier has been growing in the most unexpected and rewarding ways.
In January, Niagara's Honeymoon Sweets was named the official chocolate of Niagara Falls by decree of the city council. She also hand paints miniature dice and chocolate barrells for special events and high rollers at the Seneca Niagara Hotel and Casino. In 2011, her chocolate frames were was picked as best wedding favor on The Knot website and she also makes foil covered chocolate coins with the U.S. Navy logo on them for the Pentagon.
Every step forward delights her, including her most recent honor of being asked to contribute Niagara Falls chocolates to the new cafe at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute.
“Niagara Honeymoon Sweets chocolate is some of the best around,” said Mark Mistriner, chair of the Business & Hospitality Division at Niagara County Community College, which opened the school recently on Old Falls Street. He wrote in an email about Niagara's Honeymoon Sweets, saying that “Their passion for chocolate and attention to detail made them a natural fit for LaPatisserie at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute."
Hess continues to imagine news ways to further her business, but sometimes her ideas take her in unexpected directions. During the excitement of Nik Wallenda's walk across the falls in June, Hess released a line of Daredevil Candybars which include images of a tightrope walker, Annie Edson Taylor and the boy who flew a kite across the river to begin the construction of the Exchange Bridge. A portion of the proceeds for the bars go to area charities including the Heart Love and Soul Food Pantry, Oakwood Cemetery and the Town of Niagara Lion's Club.
As a thank-you from Oakwood, Pete Ames looked up her family history and found that her great grandmother worked in the chocolate factory on Buffalo Avenue at 19, the same age that Hess started making her own chocolates, a fact that proved, she said, that candy making was in her blood. It was a sweet bit of history to note as she proceeds to make a little bit of history herself.
"We're bringing Niagara Falls to Washington," she said with a happy laugh. "And it's going to be so good, they're going to eat it up!"
Contact Features Editor Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.