SOUTHINGTON — When you own a machine that can coat foods in chocolate, you start experimenting with just how many things taste better when covered in chocolate.
Rosie O’Kinsky, owner of Rosie’s Royal Chocolates, said that’s how she’s come up with some of her more unusual combinations such as chocolate-covered Cool Ranch Doritos, Slim Jims and bacon.
“It’s just going to make it better,” she said.
She’s been making chocolates since early 2000 and sells them at corporate offices and festivals. O’Kinsky moved her chocolate-making operation to Factory Square in November and plans to open her first store on Feb. 1.Chocolate enrober
O’Kinsky started out hand dipping pretzels and other tricky items, however, the method became too slow to keep up with orders so O’Kinsky upgraded to an enrober, a Hilliard Chocolate System.
O’Kinsky drops in Oreos at the beginning of the conveyer belt where the bottom is coated in chocolate and the excess shaken through metal grates. After passing over a cold plate, the top is coated when the cookie goes through a chocolate waterfall. The Oreo spends a couple minutes moving slowly through a cooling tunnel to harden the chocolate, coming out as a finished piece at the other end.
O’Kinsky makes about 1,000 pieces of chocolate each week with the machine. She still has trouble getting enough stock to meet demand.
“I can’t make it fast enough,” she said.
She’s on her feet for the entire process, adjusting the amount of chocolate that comes out of the reservoirs or nudging pieces that stuck together on the conveyor belt. O’Kinsky had a chocolate maker in New Jersey, when she was based there last year, but now does everything herself. She’s trying to find someone who’s passionate about chocolate, willing to work hard and who doesn’t mind the sweet mess of the process.
“You’re always going to be covered in chocolate,” she said.A Factory Square store
O’Kinsky started production in November and has been working to get the store ready since then. She’s planning to be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting Feb. 1 in the Factory Square building, 37 W. Main St.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, O’Kinsky is trying to make enough sweets to keep customers happy. Her regulars, who know her from the traveling booth she set up at corporate offices, have been tracking her progress on the store.
“They’re messaging me every single day,” she said.
In addition to chocolates, the store will have snacks, 17 types of licorice, 50 types of gummy bears, plush animals and gift boxes.Central lounge, ax throwing
O’Kinsky joins several other businesses that have started up in the former factory. Witchdoctor Brewing Co., a craft brewery, has a tap room across a hallway from Rosie’s Royal Chocolates. Earlier this month, GameCraft Arcade & Bar opened in the building as well.
Building owner Mat Florian said he’s looking to connect all the businesses to a central lounge area that’ll have couches and charging stations. Visitors will be able to walk from shop to shop while inside the former factory.
A Middletown coffee shop, Perkatory, plans to open a location in Factory Square. Ax throwing is planned for a space adjacent to O’Kinsky’s shop.
Lou Perillo, the town’s economic development director, said he was excited about the concept planned for Factory Square. He’s hoping to encourage tourism to Southington’s attractions.
“There’s plenty to do,” Perillo said.Family recipes
O’Kinsky’s great grandmother owned a candy shop and passed down some of her candy-making secrets. O’Kinsky’s chocolate, which is nearly 70 percent cacao, is made from one of those recipes.
While between jobs, O’Kinsky started trying those recipes and selling the results. Sales were good, so she stayed in the business.
She works seven days a week and has been particularly busy getting her store set up. Despite the long hours, she still enjoys making chocolate and seeing how her foods can brighten someone’s day.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” O’Kinsky said.