Right in the center of busy Main Street, Middletown, lays the small but mouthwatering store that is Tschudin Chocolates and Confections . Established in 2009, the store is particularly known for its larger than life owner, Roberto Tschudin Lucheme. Tschudin, a friend of my family, is dressed in his full attire of a white apron and chef hat, complete with a beaming face. No matter who enters the store, Tschudin already knows them by their first name. Even as he waits for his strawberries dipped in chocolate to dry, Tschudin is outside his store, calling out to people passing by to come in.
The left hand wall is filled with framed plagues from the ‘Hartford Courant’ and ‘Connecticut Magazine’ being testimony to the shops’s success. And more recently he starred in the Food Network’s ‘ReWrapped. Life couldn’t be sweeter.
Inside the store, an odor of dried coca conquests your nostrils, the odor of patience and hard work. Two glowing containers beam you, filled with handcrafted chocolates, full of jealously, all fighting to capture your attention. On the left, rows of heart shaped sweets lay next to the turquoise colored Malsa Beans and the chili filled Mrylion shaped “A Night in Tunisia.” A gallery of shoes dominates the eastern portion of the delicacies. Soft is the big word here. Each show seems to appear the most gentle, the smoothest for consumption for only the most elegant of clients.
The sweetness of it all couldn’t contrast more with the life of the man behind the counter. Having lead a life of jumping into buildings and spending hours in court, Tschudin has known moved to a ‘happier’ profession. That doesn’t mean it eliminates all the crumbs however. “You have to be willing to clean the floors, clean the bathrooms yourself”, explains Tschudin. He is also the only employee to the limited budget. Any Wesleyan student that helps out is an unpaid intern. It’s a testament of its enduring duration as yogurt shops said adieu.
The shop is particularly well known for its creative creations, some which have been award winning. “The biggest sellers tend to be somewhat seasonal and somewhat steady.” says Tschudin. So we have a chocolate called “A Night in Tunisia”, that’s been a big hit, we’ve gotten some awards for it. And its amusing. It’s red chilis, coriander, cardamom, infused into a dark chocolate grange and that’s all piped into a shell that in a shape of a merlion, with attitude you might say , she’s got a lion’s head, and it’s all hand printed. So it’s pretty to the eyes, and when you eat it, it’s like a pinball for your taste buds. Just when you think you know what it tastes like, it changes
A family friend of mine, Tschudin came late into the culinary industry, coming after careers in broadcasting, law and firefighting. “I was coming into the point in my life were it was no longer safe for me to go into burning buildings or do ice rescues as I was running out of breath, so I was looking for something else to do to keep occupied. “So I went to a restaurant called Cavey’s in Manchester, Connecticut and I taught my way in.
“So I started calling around local chocolate shops and checking in and most of them looked at me and said ‘Hmm, at his age, he’s gotta be a corporate spy, can’t just be a guy who came out of culinary school.’ But the last person who owned this shop before I took it over, all she wanted to know was how much I wanted to get paid. And I said nothing. She said ‘You can start tomorrow. So now I’m down here for three weeks and everything was going fine, she keeps talking to me into buying the shop.”
Th tough economic conditions of 2009 made accepting a tough choice for Tschudin. “And I keep saying “No, no, no”. And I figured, I never ran a kitchen, I never did retail,what shot do I have? And here it is, nearly eight years later, we almost outlasted all the yogurt shops.”
The shop is particularly well known for its creative creations, some which have been award winning. Tschudin says that “The ideas comes from all sorts of places. But a lot of the time it’s improvisation. For example, the sculpture of hearts in the front of the shop right now. I just kind of improvised as I went along. And said ‘Ok’ this seems like it could fit here and this looks like it might fit there and it looks like it will sit up straight. So we put it up.”
“The biggest sellers tend to be somewhat seasonal and somewhat steady.” says Tschudin. So we have a chocolate called “A Night in Tunisia”, that’s been a big hit, we’ve gotten some awards for it. And its amusing. It’s red chilis, coriander, cardamom, infused into a dark chocolate grange and that’s all piped into a shell that in a shape of a merlion, with attitude you might say , she’s got a lion’s head, and it’s all hand printed. So it’s pretty to the eyes, and when you eat it, it’s like a pinball for your taste buds. Just when you think you know what it tastes like, it changes.”
A constant in Tschudin are the large varieties of chocolate shoes. “Well you could saw its a foot fetish well channeled.” joked Tschudin. “But the truth of the matter is that I saw a model of it in a trade show, and didn’t think much of it, and then I noticed in the New York Times one day that all sorts of women were having their show pimped out and running across the streets in New York , and I said “Hey, that’s pretty cool.” So I said, Alright I call the guy at the shoe mole and get one. And i started doing the shoes out of chocolate and people started to buy them. And we’ve been doing them ever since. And now we have high heeled shoes, stilettos, we have platform shoes, we even have flip flops, running shoes, and I haven’t decided what my next shoe will be but who knows!”
Tschudin is no stranger to failure, with vivid memories of a failed Valentine’s Day. “(I)ran down to the local restaurant supply and I bought there best chocolate and came back to the kitchen and couldn’t do anything. I was falling flat on my backside. So I had to struggle through Valentine’s Day doing variations of all my regular pastries. But I had to find out what went wrong.” Luckily, he got an answer . “…About three weeks after I took over the shop, I finally got one of the manufactures reps to sit down with me. And wouldn’t you know, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. What I didn’t know is that chocolate comes in different viscosities. So there is the equivalent of summer weight motor chocolate and winter weight motor chocolate, so some are very thick and perfect for making cakes and pudding. And some of it is very thin and perfect for doing molding work. So of course I purchased sludge, which is why I got nowhere the first time around, but it goes to show you, just because you failed, you can’t eventually be successful.”
Despite the store’s upbeat feel, Tschudin’s is a testament of hard work. Tschudin questions the status quo that one needs to have their ideal job straight after college. “I would certainly recommend to anyone looking to do this as a career, go apprentice yourself to someone, don’t look for money, just go out for the opportunity to learn.”In his opinion, it takes time before one finally finds their place in society.Of Puerto Rican ancestry, Tschudin is no stranger to hardships. Despite what it takes to keep ‘Confections’ open, Tschudin doesn’t do it for the bucks. It was a dream to one day partake in an industry designed to make people happy.
“Just as Michangelo and Da Vinci dabbled in this and dabbled in that into it finally come together for them , eventually it’ll eventually come together and your gonna make it your own.”