Small Town Spotlight: Papa’s Chocolates a Montpelier treat of family-recipe sweets
MONTPELIER — Few things can satisfy a sweet tooth like a well-made chocolate truffle, a chewy chocolate caramel or a salty-sweet chocolate-covered peanut cluster.
Papa’s Chocolates, in Montpelier, has that and so much more.
The old-fashioned chocolate shop opened 10 years ago after co-founder Robert Matthews made a box of chocolates for his grandfather. To say those chocolates were well-received would be an understatement, according to Robert’s wife and co-founder, April Matthews.
“One year at Christmas, we took him a batch of our Bavarian mint truffles,” April recalled. “He said, ‘Son, you’d be a fool not to start selling this.'”
For most, this response may have been passed off as the kind words of a supportive grandfather. But things were a little different in the Matthews’ case.
Robert’s grandfather, “Papa,” had recently retired after running Glade Candy Company in Salt Lake City, for decades.
And Glade, a landmark candy store that operates today under the name Taffy Town, was started by Robert’s great-grandfather, James Vernon Glade, just over a century ago.
So chocolate is a family tradition, one Robert had enjoyed as a child, but never embraced as a career endeavor until his Papa’s retirement. That was when Glade began to focus on saltwater taffy, and stopped producing the chocolates Robert had grown up with.
Craving the chocolates that had been a holiday tradition, Robert asked to learn the family recipes, April said. But he wasn’t handed a book. Instead, Robert would get step-by-step directions over the phone.
“One recipe at a time was all (Papa) would let (Robert) do until he perfected it,” April told EastIdahoNews.com.
Eventually, Robert perfected the Glade family recipes, one at a time, and was ready to open his own shop. And he and April didn’t have to search long for a name, choosing to celebrate their chocolatiering teacher.
Papa’s opened with a modest start. In fact, the original shop did not have its own kitchen. The Matthews were forced to work out a deal with a local church, using the church’s kitchen to make the chocolate before hauling it to the store in a cart.
The family has since added a kitchen, where April and Robert’s oldest son, Eddie, can be seen today, buzzing around during business hours as the shop’s new chef.
Eddie took over as co-owner just over a year ago, when a neck injury rendered Robert unable to carry out the daily tasks required to make the shop’s candy. And Eddie, like his father, learned to perfect the recipe, step by step and one at a time.
Over 10 years of operation, Papa’s has made other change.
In addition to the truffles, turtles, brittle and seemingly endless chocolate options, Papa’s visitors can get Aggie ice cream — a staple in Logan, Utah — caramel candy apples and caramel popcorn that April says she has to force herself to keep from eating.
Along with providing the Montpelier community with a product, April has always seen Papa’s as a service business as well.
As the Montpelier native explained, the town has seen an economic standstill, for the most part, since the 1970s when railroad companies ceased operation in town. Sure, April said, summer brings tourists through town en route to Bear Lake — and business gets a much-needed boost in those months — but she wants Papa’s to show her neighbors that small businesses can thrive locally.
“We are hoping to inspire others,” she said. “If we can do it, you can do it, too. Please help get these stores filled up so we can grow again.”
And it is far from lost on the Matthews family that a chocolate shop has been successful for a decade in a town of fewer than 3,000 people. For that, April is incredibly thankful to the local families who make weekly trips for ice cream night, and neighbors who stop in for a box of chocolates. That, she added, is part of the joy of operating Papa’s in a small town.
Papa’s Chocolates is at 484 Washington St. in Montpelier and is open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Small Town Spotlight wants to shine a light on all the good going on in small-town Idaho. If you know of someone or something in one of Idaho’s many small towns that deserve to be featured on Small Town Spotlight, email Kalama@EastIdahoNews.com and include “spotlight” in the subject line.