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Lost Gem
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Myzel's Chocolate

The Manhattan Sideways team is always excited when they discover a shop that specializes in chocolate. On this particular day, we were also delighted to spend some time chatting with owner, Kamila Myzel. We learned that this heavenly little store has resided on 55th for over two decades, and has an old-fashioned candy shop charm to it. Kamila makes every effort to be sure that anyone who steps inside her door feels welcome, and she went on to say that she uses her grandma's recipes for the many different sweets she sells. She bakes all the cookies herself, right on the premises, with her signature being the "Ultimate Cookie, " a chocolate chip cookie that is then dipped in chocolate. Like many of the store's confectionary delights, Kamila is from Europe; she moved from Poland in 1981, and worked in a few other shops with sweet treats before opening this one. Licorice is a specialty at Myzel's, and Kamila explained to us that she carries over 130 different types of licorice made from licorice root that their loyal customers adore. On one of my visits, Myzel's was decked out for Halloween, with candied skulls, pumpkins, and a number of other appropriate decorations squeezed into every nook and cranny. Apparently, Kamila decorates extensively for each major holiday, but she said her personal favorite is Thanksgiving, as it has the "most sincere meaning. " Myzel's even makes chocolate turkeys for the occasion! Until recently, Kamila had a partner with whom she decorated, baked, and ran the store: her mother, Lucy. The mother/daughter team worked together in the sweet shop until the summer of 2015, when Lucy sadly passed away. We had the pleasure of meeting Lucy and seeing the love and devotion that the two women had both for the store and each other. What we derived from our conversations with Kamila was the joy the store brought to her and her mom over the years. Together they have put so much thought and love into Myzel’s Chocolate, and it is clear that her mother lives on in the warmth, color, and happiness that the store evokes. “It’s what’s inside that matters, ” Kamila insisted as she spoke about how much she loves connecting with people through sharing candies and sweet treats with them.

Lost Gem
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La Maison du Chocolat

La Maison du Chocolat is a sophisticated example of a delectable chocolate shop. Everything sold inside its doors is made in Paris, with the exception of the ice cream that includes ingredients from France but is prepared on site. The day that Manhattan Sideways stopped by, we met Brigitte who has been working here since 2010. A knowledgeable chocolate connoisseur, Brigitte shared La Maison's history. We learned that Robert Linxe, the founder was originally from the French Basque Country, but acquired much of his craft while attending school in Switzerland. He went on to run a successful catering service in Paris for twenty years before deciding to pursue his true passion. At the time, chocolate was considered something to be saved strictly for special occasions; as Brigitte told us, people thought Linxe's enthusiasm for a shop devoted to chocolate was "crazy. " Nevertheless, Linxe was able to find an auspicious space in Paris with a wine cellar, which he used to make the delicacies and protect them from the damaging effects of the weather. In 1977, Linxe opened the doors and welcomed Paris to his specialty boutique. Within three weeks, all of the chocolate had been sold and Linxe was dubbed the master of ganache. And in 1996, over twenty years later, Nicolas Cloiseau, the highly acclaimed chocolatier and pastry chef joined the business continuing La Maison's coveted reputation. Brigitte stressed that the discussion of chocolate is akin to that of wine; expertise comes from reading on the subject, perhaps taking a course, and most importantly, much experience. Moreover, chocolate and wine may be enjoyed together when paired consciously. Chocolate always goes well with "a nice red wine, " Brigitte said. Quickly turning to the particulars, she added that milk chocolate is best paired with white wine and dark chocolate with port. Brigitte continued to enlighten us, saying with detectable fervor, "Good dark chocolate should not be bitter. " It takes approximately ten days to dry cocoa beans. Rushing this process, a common crime of many chocolate companies, results in this bitter taste. Brigitte made a point of showing us how to taste chocolate: smell it first and then let it melt in your mouth. After this incredible offering of chocolate wisdom, Brigitte presented us with a plate of small pieces of chocolate arranged deliberately in a circle. Beginning at forty percent, each successive piece around the circle had an increased concentration of pure chocolate. We continued to climb past eighty and concluded with a piece of one hundred percent pure chocolate. At this point, a natural thickness set in and the pieces lost all association with candy. Suddenly, each of us agreed, it felt as though we were appreciating chocolate, not as a beloved dessert or comforting treat, but as a wonder of the earth.

Lost Gem
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Just off of Ninth Avenue is a small cookie shop called Schmackary's, and wow, what a crowd it continues to attract at almost any hour or day of the week. Stepping inside feels like being transported into a Norman Rockwell painting – familiarly and authentically American. The shop is neatly decorated with baby blue pinstripes and a wall of colored glass that separates the kitchen from the eating area. The vibe is calm, warm, and welcoming, just as owner Zachary Schmall intended it to be when he opened his first brick-and-mortar in 2012. Zach came to the city as an aspiring Broadway actor but began his career in marketing. In order to de-stress, Zach would come home to his apartment and bake cookies, often experimenting with different flavor combinations. His friends would try his creations and after a while, they began encouraging him to sell them. Zach took a risk, and eventually, what he had seen as a modest pipe dream became his livelihood. Hailing from the Midwest, when it came time to start his own business, Zach made sure that customers were his top priority. While I was chatting with him, he told me that his approach was first and foremost based on providing the customer with warm and personable service. On a daily basis, he makes certain that his staff is not "anonymous and apathetic, but rather people who others strolling in might want to have as friends. " Since his success stems from word of mouth and social media, Zach has shown that prioritizing the customer pays off. Zach credits part of Schmackary's reputation as a "hidden gem in the heart of Broadway" to the store's location a couple of steps away from the main drag. He loves his 45th Street address, especially because of his strong connection to the theater community, and wants to keep that same side street feeling as he makes plans to expand. He further explained, "Being slightly removed from the avenue bustle gives Schmackary's a more intimate vibe, whereas a main street location would feel more exposed and less familial. "Schmackary's, called "the unofficial cookie of Broadway, " offers a rotating menu of 45 different flavors of cookies. On one visit, I bit into the moist, but crunchy around the edges, Caramel Apple Crisp and was hooked. A coffee-crazy friend of mine, who had tagged along with me that day, said their coffee was top-notch – yet another reason to come back to visit Schmackary's. On a subsequent visit with members of the Manhattan Sideways team, they sampled several other amazing cookies, including The Monster filled with peanut butter, M& Ms, and raisins. And on yet another day when we were stopping by to take photos, it happened to be when Broadway Bakes was taking place - the annual fundraiser that Schmackary's holds for Broadway Cares, the nation's top AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. During this week, some of the theater district's biggest stars volunteer their time to stand behind the counter and serve customers. When we showed up, the line was down the block. Little did we know that everyone was waiting to have their picture taken with Audra McDonald in exchange for a donation. A serendipitous moment as Zach brought us to the front of the line to meet her. Needless to say, everyone was quite pleased that I had taken them to this sweet oasis. Learn about Schmackary's vision to franchise throughout the US in the W42ST article, “After 11 Tasty Years in Hell’s Kitchen, Schmackary’s Broadway Bakery Sets Stage for Nationwide Expansion. ”

Lost Gem
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See's Candies

If one were to walk into the original See’s Candies in Los Angeles in the 1920s, one would see something very similar to the brick and mortar storefront in the West Village. Indeed, the black and white tiles and decades-old employee uniform design remain the same. The recipes remain true to the originals, created with top-notch ingredients and designed to be eaten fresh. Even the cascading art deco light fixtures, which are, in fact, the originals, found in an old warehouse in California, will transport customers back to the era of swing. However, it is the spirit of the place that is most remarkable, which Bill Rhodes - who partnered with See’s to open the first New York location in the fall of 2016 - labors carefully to keep alive. As I looked through the rows of rich chocolates behind the glass shield, I listened in as a customer shared with Bill how ecstatic she had been when she heard that See’s Candies was coming to her neighborhood. “I grew up on these, ” she said, “This is like a dream. ” After she made her purchases, Bill invited the Manhattan Sideways team behind the counter, where rows and rows of neat little drawers lined the shelves beneath the displays. Bill took us through the boxes, pulling out one after another, and described each one with rapture, from the heavier cherry cordials to the brown sugar butter creams, which consist of “firm brown sugar enrobed in a rich milk chocolate. ” He then demonstrated how each chocolate was carefully placed into brown paper cups and displayed. The shop, Bill told us, was meant to be a hidden gem. Mary See’s son, Charles, built the original store on the West Coast as a tribute to his mother’s kitchen, replicating her black and white tiled floors and art deco design. Bill revealed that if this store had been opened in New York along with the original in the 1920s, it would have been opened on a side street just like 8th street. The small shops and shaded sidewalks of the West Village embody the small business, community oriented spirit of the store that Charles See envisioned back in the day. “It only took us ninety-six years, ” Bill said, “but we’re finally here! ”

Lost Gem
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The Sweet Shop New York City

"Like a kid in a candy shop" is not an adequate description of how I felt walking into The Sweet Shop. I felt even happier: I was an adult in a candy shop, both dazzled by the color and array of decadent desserts and warmed by the nostalgia brought on by the chocolate cigars and sugar wafers of my childhood. As I watched the flow of customers going in and out of the small store, I realized that I was not alone in my thoughts. All ages come in, with big smiles on their faces, to buy treats from the Candyman, himself. "We're a nostalgic experience, " the Candyman, also known as Kelly Jaime, said when he saw my jaw drop as I walked in the door. Since 2000, Kelly has lived in the neighborhood while working in sales for a Fortune 500 company, and continually lamented that there were no late-night ice cream stores. In 2013, he decided to solve the problem himself. What started as a simple ice cream parlor, however, turned into a place serving candy and ice cream. "The demographic in this area changed overnight, " he explained. "It's much younger – there are strollers everywhere. " With this new kind of audience, Kelly decided to offer all sorts of sweet delicacies rather than ice cream alone. This meant he could sell his favorite treats: marshmallows. "You have to understand this about my dad, " his son piped up. "He loves marshmallows. " The sweet shop is a family-run business. Kelly and his son Matthew, also known as "Pie Guy, " man the store while his wife, Glyn, is the designer behind the Willy Wonka-esque decor. She even made the breath-taking chandelier made of candies and the whimsical sweet-themed cabinet door handles. One of the few things in the space that Glyn created, but did not illustrate, is the little logo of Kelly in his uniform, which they commissioned an artist to do. Despite the fact that Kelly decided not to focus solely on ice cream, he is still very proud of the frozen treats. "We sell five of the top ten ice creams in New York, " he beamed. He pointed out that there is no other location in the city where you can find this many varieties of high quality ice cream in one place. He carries OddFellows and Van Leeuwen standard choices, as well as Van Leeuwen's vegan flavors. He also sells Snowballs, which he describes as, "Better than a snow cone – just smooth, slushified ice. " Even though the whole store is filled with sugar, Kelly says that he is very careful not to feed unhealthy habits. "We are selling small things, " he said. He showed me an example of the tiniest size cone that he fills. They are custom-made by a secret source solely for him, and though he originally meant them for children, they are also bought by many health-conscious adults, counting the nearby medical community among those constituents. Kelly went on to tell me that he buys the highest quality candy and has Underwest Donuts delivered fresh everyday. "We are a fresh fruit stand for candy, " he said with a smile. Moving away from the ice cream counter, Kelly was eager to show off his chocolate collection. He carries a variety, from companies that have been in production since the 1940s to the Mast Brothers, a relatively new chocolatier. He also has a lot of "bean to bar" creations that emphasize the flavor of the cacao bean. When he saw me circling around, questioning where the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were, Kelly quickly responded, "I don't sell anything that one can find in Duane Reade. " Instead, The Sweet Shop has a private company that makes their amazing peanut butter cups. Next Kelly had me walk over to the drawers upon drawers of Swedish candy. "This candy is just utterly, utterly delicious, " Kelly exclaimed, filling up a bag for each of us from Manhattan Sideways. Next, Kelly gushed over his world famous butter crunch, saying that it has now been shipped to every continent, including Antarctica. And, of course, marshmallows can be found throughout the store, both on their own and in treats like the "Jakewich, " a marshmallow wedged between two Tate's chocolate chip cookies. Though the store is packed with candy, part of the treat of visiting the Sweet Shop is simply talking with the Candyman. Kelly is full of witticisms and stories. I overheard him telling a customer that the licorice was "black like my heart and just as delicious. " He told me that a lot of his whimsical attitude is thanks to his grandmother, who worked with Walt Disney. When Kelly visited her as a child, she would throw him in the Magic Shop whenever she needed a babysitter. There is a small section of the Sweet Shop that acts as an ode to these childhood memories: Kelly pulled out a drawer at the bottom of the Swedish candy that was filled with vintage magic tricks, pranks, and fake candy. Not only that, but there are plastic ninjas and little optical treasures hidden around the room. Recognizing that every inch of space has an element of fun, I learned from Kelly that he had worked in an amusement park in his youth, and was greatly influenced by the excitement of entertainment. When I inquired as to what might be next, this clever, warm man confided that he was about to launch his own chocolate bar line. The flavors were still a secret, but he seemed very excited. "I've been extremely happy with what we've been able to accomplish in two years, " he said enthusiastically. There is no doubt that Kelly has managed to feature an outstanding variety for those of us with a sweet tooth. As we were leaving, Kelly's last words were, "Our family is trying to bring the best confectionary treats, by brand, into one place" From what each of us witnessed and tasted, we would have to agree that he has succeeded.