CARROLLWOOD — Mari Caron had always enjoyed making chocolate. But a trip to Montreal 10 years ago inspired her to take her affinity for cocoa confections to a different level.
"When you think about chocolate you think about Belgium, but the French are quite the artisans when it comes to chocolate making," Caron recalled about her trip, where she witnessed the art of artisan chocolate making.
Caron began training and eventually launched her own online company, Mari Carón Chocolats. She made some of the chocolates and also curated from notable artisan chocolatiers nearby like Victoria Richards, William Dean and David Ramirez. Her goal was simple: to become the biggest supplier of artisan chocolate in the Tampa Bay area. A few years later she achieved it.
Her next goal was achieved a few months ago when she opened a brick-and-mortar Mari Carón Chocolats inside the Empress Tea Room at 12924 N Dale Mabry in Carrollwood.
The shop has a Parisian theme, with crystal chandeliers, red roses in vases and miniature Eiffel Tower statues. Glass cases are filled with vibrantly decorated artisan chocolates. The cafe also serves specialty coffee drinks and wine. A Mari Caron jewelry line is available at the store for those who need a little retail therapy while they nosh.
The chocolates available at Mari Caron are as much about art as they are about creamy sweetness. Many aren't made with ingredients you'd not typically think of for chocolate. There's smoky bacon, lemongrass, bergamot and sangria.
"All your senses are satisfied when you come in," said Caron, a Lutz resident.
Caron and tearoom owner Kim Nauman had been friends for a while. But last year, while talking, the two decided that artisan chocolates would be the perfect complement to the tearoom. Business has been good, and Caron plans a second Mari Carón Chocolats at the Shops at Wiregrass in late 2014.
Caron's favorite chocolate is the Ooh La La Champagne, created by Victoria Richards exclusively for the Carrollwood shop. "It tastes like champagne and more champagne," Caron said.
With chocolate, jewelry and wine, Mari Carón Chocolats screams girls night out. Caron agrees that the shop has a certain feminine appeal, but she hopes people will also come to find gifts, enjoy date night and support small business.
"It's important for people to know what is in their own community," Caron said. "You can get something very special without leaving the area."
Mari Carón Chocolats is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at 12924 N Dale Mabry. Call (813) 474-8649 or visit maricaronchocolates.com.
Dermatology office to open
The new year will bring another option for dermatology to the Citrus Park area. Construction is under way at 11601 Sheldon Road, where Palm Harbor Dermatology will open in January. The office will neighbor the American Legion Hall.
This will be the third location for Palm Harbor Dermatology, which has offices in Palm Harbor and Brandon.
The Citrus Park office will include a full dermatology lab, cosmetic and laser treatments, aesthetician services, massage and a store. Some surgeries will also be performed on site.
The location will start off with one physician and expand to two by March, said Dr. Amy Ross, president of Palm Harbor Dermatology.
The office will officially start taking patients on Jan. 13. A grand opening is planned for Jan. 30.
Visit palmharbordermatology.com for details.