Celebrating local success: NH's Small Business Administration applauds Peterborough chocolate shop Ava Marie'sBy MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent
February 12. 2018 12:13AM
PETERBOROUGH — Granite State representatives of the U.S. Small Business Administration paid a visit to Ava Marie’s Chocolates last week, ahead of the shop’s busiest days of the year.
The SBA visit to Susan Mazzone’s chocolate shop in Peterborough on Tuesday was to celebrate the success of the business that started with a $75,000 SBA loan in 2004 and to highlight the importance of remembering your local small businesses on Valentine’s Day, SBA district director Greta Johansson said.
“You can get all kinds of quality and options online. You can get all sorts of things. You can find deals. ... But what you can’t get is the feeling you get when you walk into a place like this,” Johansson said, adding Ava Marie’s also sells wholesale and online. “I can get a box of chocolates from anywhere. But I can’t get the Ava Bear anywhere else. And you don’t know that until you come here.”
It was about a week before the store’s biggest day of the year, but Mazzone and Ava Marie manager Kelly Kemmet were happy to celebrate the store’s success.
“Christmas is the biggest (season),” Mazzone said, about spending in her chocolate shop, adding that the Christmas season at Ava Marie’s is about a month long.
“The busiest day is the day before Valentine’s Day, for the whole year,” Mazzone said.
In 2003, Mazzone was a stay-at-home mom in Peterborough with two young children when she began honing her skills as a chocolatier and started selling her handmade chocolates wholesale.
A year later, with the help of the SBA line of credit funding and advice from a SCORE coach, Mazzone and her husband, Peter Mazzone, took the plunge and moved the chocolate business into a Grove Street storefront.
SCORE is a volunteer group of business advisers who are in the SBA family. The business coaching made a big difference for her business in those early years, Mazzone said.
“You can make chocolate, but operating a business is a whole other ball park,” she said.
The shop was named after the Mazzones’ daughter Ava Marie, now a senior in high school. Older brother Landon, who is now in college, was named president.
While Mazzone has expanded her line of handmade chocolates, truffles and clusters as the business has grown over the years, she also created a 1950s ice cream parlor atmosphere in the commercial space, where she also sells ice cream, candy and gifts.
In 2017, Ava Marie’s Chocolates received national recognition on TV from Bravo’s “The Feast” for its 35-scoop Mount Monadnock Sundae.
Johansson is encouraging Granite Staters to do their Valentine’s Day shopping this week at places like Ava Marie’s in their own downtowns and Main Streets.
“Part of the appeal of New Hampshire is how many vibrant Main Streets that we have,” Johansson said. “We don’t have those unless you come in and shop local.”