Craft of sweetness alive in Etna, Millvale
Whether you prefer white, milk or dark chocolate, or something more exotic, small chocolate companies in Etna and Millvale are there to sweeten your holiday season.
Pollak’s Candies owners and siblings Dick Pollak and Beth Weidner have only two employees who aren’t relatives.
“It’s an old-fashioned family business. When you get busy, everybody got to lend a hand,” Pollak said.
Some of the machines are the original “workhorses” used since the company’s 1948 founding.
“There is a lot of hand work involved, also,” he said. “The candy’s made from scratch, and it’s made by us. It comes basically from a bag of sugar and cream and you know, fresh nuts, whatever. That’s a dying art. Not everybody’s doing it that way.”
Pollak showed off the hand-decorated chocolates and creams dusted with colored sprinkles and icing.
“I try to make everything look like you’re giving an expensive gift, but it’s actually reasonably priced,” Weidner said.
The shop currently contains a variety of holiday tins, baskets, peppermint bark, holiday pretzels, Advent calendars and more. Unique offerings include golf ball-sized chocolate-covered strawberry cordials, coconut “snow caps” covered in two kinds of chocolate and chocolate-dipped liqueur shots. Pecan clusters, peanut butter meltaways and chocolate-covered cherries are favorites.
“It’s a family pride. That’s what keeps us going,” Pollak said.
Yetter’s Chocolates in Millvale appears like it could exist in the 1950s. Guests can grab seats at red, shiny stools at the counter or in booths and order deli sandwiches, milkshakes and sodas. Guests can shop for dime candy in addition to chocolate made in the back of the store.
Despite the shop’s period appearance, Jeff Carr has worked to keep the business current since taking over ownership from his parents, Ed “Butch” Carr and Arlene Yetter Carr, four years ago.
For instance, he has been partnering with Grist House Craft Brewery to offer beer-flavored milkshakes at the Millvale brewery.
“I can’t sell them here because I don’t have a liquor license, but I’ve been selling them up there in the summer. Things like that are reaching new people, younger people,” said Carr, 47.
Likewise, he now offers chocolate-covered bacon, something he brought back from his time living in San Diego.
“I’ve been looking into working with stuff that’s not quite as sweet, you know, lavender-infused chocolates. I haven’t introduced that yet, but, man, it’s good.
“It hasn’t been easy, I’ll admit, trying to find this whole new group of customers without alienating the ones that you already have.”
He said that Millvale’s economic growth is helping.
“This business has always been about the milk chocolate. It’s always been the seller. White chocolate and the dark chocolate hasn’t been anywhere close. I know the dark has its fan base, and I’m part of that fan base,” Carr said.
Dark chocolate-covered almonds are his favorite product. Peanut brittle, turtles and chocolate-covered cherries are top picks. Holiday shoppers will find chocolate-covered Oreos with snowflake sprinkles, boxed chocolate assortments in holiday wrapping and chocolate holiday suckers.
Also in Millvale, A519 Chocolate co-owner and head chocolatier Amanda Wright, 30, turns chocolate into art in her Sedgwick Street production kitchen.
The company opened in 2015 in Greenfield and relocated to Millvale in 2016; the location is closed to the public unless they call ahead to purchase items or schedule a truffle-making class. Otherwise, A519 Chocolate is available at Lawrenceville’s Wildcard, the Strip District’s Mon Aimee Chocolat, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Oakland’s Maggie & Stella’s Cards & Gifts or online.
For every holiday, the company creates a 15-piece assortment. This year’s $30 winter collection is composed of caramel truffles.
“ We really like the look of the winter caramels with the blue, white and gold motif so we keep that similar in look and then we change some or most of the flavors,” Wright said.
She said that she wanted warm and classic flavors that weren’t overpowering for the winter collection.
“We did a little more classic of flavors. We have an orange dark chocolate. We have a cinnamon brown butter. We have a muscovado, which is an unrefined brown sugar, so I wanted flavors that people would like and enjoy pretty universally and flavors that would also tap into the holiday spirit and people’s memories.”
A519 uses a 3D printer to create stencils through which Wright airbrushes her designs using cocoa butter.
“Many people presume that we would have a completed truffle and then paint it after the fact,” she said. “but instead the first step is painting, then we cast tempered chocolate into the mold to create a shell and create a cavity into which we can pipe out ganache or caramel or whatever filling … our last step is putting the bottom on the truffle with more tempered chocolate.”
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.