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The timing couldn’t have been sweeter: Jody Peskin always wanted to own some kind of small business related to her passion for chocolate. She just figured that would happen much later in life.
But here she is at age 31, presiding over her own addition to the Main Line kosher community, just down the street from the new upscale Citron and Rose kosher restaurant.
The chocolatier opened the Sweet Trading Company in early October, a little under a year after Moving Traditions eliminated her position as a field director overseeing an identity-building program for girls.
Peskin figured she wouldn’t be able to find another job until at least January, so she turned to her college hobby in hopes of making a little money on the side in the meantime. She set up a website offering custom gourmet Belgian chocolates. At first, she filled orders for stores and individual clients at home, then from a commercial kitchen owned by a friend.
“It just kind of took off,” the Villanova native said.
Eventually, Peskin said, she stopped looking for another job in Jewish communal service — though her background in that field certainly played into her decision to open a kosher storefront.
After nine years lobbying for college students to have access to kosher food when she worked for Hillels in Baltimore and Philadelphia, the idea of “kosher food for all” is “kind of ingrained in my frame of mind.”
Although Peskin doesn’t observe the laws of kashrut herself, she said most of her ingredients were already kosher so it made sense to seek official certification.
“There’s nothing like this available in the community right now, so if I can offer it, why not?” she said. Aside from serving a need, “I’m able to open my business up to more customers.”
There aren’t many innovative chocolatiers in the local market in general, agreed customer Ken Krivitzky, who recently moved to the area to become the executive director of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood. Like Peskin, Krivitzky said he only keeps “somewhat kosher” but the fact that the chocolates are certified as such means that he can bring them to synagogue meetings.
“It’s something different that we don’t have,” said Krivitzy, 37, “and it’s affordable and tasty.”
Though Peskin shells out extra for the Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia certification as well as for gourmet kosher marshmallows, she said most of the other ingredients don’t cost much more, which means she can keep her prices competitive with other high-end sweet shops.
One downside of the new gig: Rebbe the black pug, her “little sidekick,” can’t come to work with her anymore. “He’s not kosher for the Board of Health,” Peskin said. But he wouldn’t do well with chocolate anyway.
The best part, she said, is the customers, “when I’m sitting down with someone and they tell me what they’re interested in and I can make something unique and fun for them. It’s in my nature to feed people.”
And the truffles — there’s room for lots of creativity there, too, she added.
In the future, Peskin said she hopes to host cooking classes and special events for Jewish young professionals groups. She’s already expanding the variety of treats she offers, including adding muffins and coffee to draw a breakfast crowd. She’s considering adding housewares and other gifts for sale as well.
Marketing has been a challenge, she said, but she’s already getting repeat business from the Orthodox community, which “makes me feel good about what we’re trying to do here.”
“Most people don’t get this opportunity,” she said, especially not at such a young age. “I love what I do, so I just can’t complain.”
INFORMATION: Find the Sweet Trading Company (www.thechocolateconcierge.com) at 733-B Montgomery Ave. in Narberth or call 267-935-9294.