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Thursday, September 15,2011

Serving a piece of love through chocolate

By Christie Sounart
photo by Jefferson Dodge

Sarah Amorese has a passion for all things chocolate.

For most people, this passion can resonate very closely to their personal list of favorites, but she has taken it a step further and has made chocolate her career. On March 15, she opened her own eclectic chocolate shop on the west end of Pearl Street.

Amorese aims to make Piece, Love & Chocolate more than the typical sweet shop around town. In fact, she wants every customer to leave the shop with more than just chocolate.

“People kept asking me ‘What do you sell?’ and I would always answer, ‘I sell chocolate!’ but I realized that it’s more than that,” she says. “We create things with love. I think it shows.”

The atmosphere of the shop is one that promotes happiness and relaxation. As the smells of fresh-baked chocolate and pastries waft over the store, customers are soothed with music from around the world and, often, sounds from the rainforest. Amorese also constructed a life-sized replica of a cacao tree, the tree that produces the citrus-like fruit that encases the seeds used to make chocolate.

She wants the shop to be a place where people can have fun, she explains, and she often observes that her customers come in to relax. They sometimes even break out in dance. She extended the hours on Friday and Saturday nights as a way to invite crowds looking for a place to hang out.

“It’s been such a fun connection with people,” she says. “We are building this neat food community.”

Amorese is a Longmont native whose parents owned a pastry shop. She began to develop an interest in the chocolate business when she was preparing for her wedding in 1995. She couldn’t find the one thing she was looking for the most: a wedding cake made completely out of chocolate. Then she lived in Europe for four years with her husband, further piquing her interest in the eclectic world of chocolate.

To make her dream of opening a chocolate shop come true, Amorese went to culinary school at what is now the Art Institute of Colorado and worked as a pastry chef. With a background in advertising, design and artistry, she combined her skills and advanced her chocolate knowledge by following various chocolatiers around the country. When it came time to open the shop, she had no doubt in her mind about the location.

“It was pivotal to come to Boulder,” she says. “It throws us out there.”

After 16 months of searching for the space, Amorese finally found the perfect location for Piece, Love & Chocolate at 805 Pearl St. She chose downtown Boulder with the idea that tourists can balance a slower summer season with the abundance of locals looking for chocolate the rest of the year.

Piece, Love & Chocolate sells homemade truffles and pastries, in addition to chocolate from local bakers and around the world. Some are so vibrantly colored and delicate that they look like glass pieces rather than delicious chocolate. The outside chocolates in her “Exotic Bar Armoire” are handpicked by Amorese to ensure that only the best chocolates make it into customers’ hands. Some chocolates even come gluten-free and sugar-free.

If Amorese hears a repeated request from customers, she will do her best to stock her shop with it.

“We’re still newbies trying to figure everything out,” she says. “But we always have such exciting things. I want to appeal to everybody’s senses.”

The shop has nine employees working to ensure the best quality of chocolate is always served. Amorese says she and her “cocoa coordinator,” Genevieve Fetherston, are constantly crafting new ideas.

“We are always thinking, ‘What else can we do with chocolate?’” she says. “We have yet to be stumped.”

Amorese has big plans for Piece, Love & Chocolate this fall. She intends to hold different educational classes in the shop, ranging from a basic cooking class to a wine, beer and chocolate tasting. The shop makes custom chocolate cakes for any occasion, including weddings, and is available for dessert catering. She also says that people can rent out the shop after hours for private parties. She says the first group to rent out Piece, Love & Chocolate was a local Boulder dentist office.

Despite the difficult economy and burden of the recession looming over small start-ups, Amorese is confident in her business.

“Chocolate is an affordable luxury!” she says.

Piece, Love & Chocolate is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information is available at pieceloveandchocolate.com.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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