The inside of the quaint downtown candy shop catches your nose as soon as you step through the doors. The distinct aromas of caramel, chocolate and other sweet treats might guide you to the chocolate case featuring a variety of homemade hand-dipped chocolate items and fudge. Or maybe to the bagged candy and popcorn.
But in the back of the store is where you’ll find the most pronounced aroma. Fresh candy is being cooked in a copper kettle, with owners Kelly Stover and Angela Wiechens tending to the concoctions being carefully stirred and heated to just the perfect temperature.
Kelly and Angela own Riverside Sweets in the middle of the historic district in downtown St. Charles. Known for homemade chocolates and candies, the storefront has been a mainstay in Missouri’s first capital city since Kelly’s parents, Jim and Kathy Brown, opened it in 1999.
Kelly was a teenager when her parents started the store so has been around it from the beginning. Angela has been at Riverside Sweets for a dozen years. “When they were talking about selling it last year, Kelly and I got to talking and we couldn’t imagine having new bosses,” Angela says. “We’ve both got families with kids and busy lives, but we put our heads together to find a way to make this work and take over ourselves.”
The pair was met with a sinister April Fools’ joke as they officially took over on April 1, 2020 — just a few weeks after life changed for everyone, especially small-business owners. “We had to try and make money without our doors being open,” Angela says. “We started a website, free porch delivery, shipping and curbside as the weather got better.”
They weathered the storm and still satisfied their customers’ sweet tooths before welcoming customers in their store in mid-May.
Riverside Sweets has items that are popular year round, but sometimes it’s the weather or upcoming holiday that brings people in the front door. This time of year, the pair are gearing up for a busy Valentine’s Day season.
The main attraction in February is Riverside’s chocolate-covered strawberries.
“We don’t put preservatives on the strawberries, so we’re making them fresh every day,” Angela says. “So when the customers pick them up, they know they were made that morning.”
The fresh berries are hand-dipped in a temperature-controlled bowl filled with either milk, dark or white chocolate. The berries are dried and boxed for the perfect Valentine’s Day surprise.
“We’ve got customers who have been coming here on Valentine’s Day for at least 15 years,” Kelly says. “We know them by name when they call or stop in.”
A new customer favorite that the duo will be featuring this month is their hot chocolate bombs. They take cocoa powder and marshmallows and place them inside a homemade hollow chocolate ball. “You put it in a mug and pour hot milk over it and it makes a great hot chocolate,” Angela says.
Other seasonal specialties at Christmas might include one of their dozen or so flavors of fudge, homemade turtles or one of their most popular bagged candy combinations, turtle corn. Still hot, just-made caramel is poured over freshly popped popcorn. Finally, milk chocolate is sprinkled over the top.
Kelly does the cooking over the kettle with Angela by her side making sure everything goes smoothly. That commitment is what has kept the business popular over the course of two decades, according to Kelly.
“Our candy is handmade, not made in a factory and shipped out everywhere,” she says. “It’s a really high-quality chocolate and we don’t use any preservatives in the candy we make. We make it often to keep it fresh; it’s never sitting on a shelf forever.”
While they encourage customers to order some items — like their chocolate-covered strawberries — a week or two in advance, Angela says they are blessed with the foot traffic that keeps downtown St. Charles vibrant.
“We’re really lucky with all that is down here,” she says. “People might visit one of our restaurants for dinner then pop in for just a piece of chocolate or ice cream for dessert. Or they might grab a bag of candy for them to take home. We have couples who are staying at a bed-and-breakfast in town and randomly find us and fall in love with the store after trying something.”
Whether it’s working the wooden paddle inside the hot copper kettle or saving someone’s Valentine’s Day with just the perfect chocolate-covered strawberry, Kelly says she feels at home in the candy store.
“It’s been what my family has done since I was 15 years old, so this has been most of my life,” she says. “It’s awesome to be able to continue on what they built here, which was an amazing business.”