Dorothy Cox Chocolates: making holidays sweet
The moment the door to Dorothy Chocolate Store opens, the scent of chocolate descends. Gold paper and wrapped boxes of candies fill the shelves. Hard peppermints, butter crunch candy, chocolate-covered cranberries, chocolate roses wrapped in colored tinfoil - it’s only a small list of what’s available for sale.
It’s still the holiday season for candy makers - Christmas has ended but Valentine’s Day is here and Easter is right around the corner.
“We start producing candy for the next holiday at least a month in advance,” says company president Francis Cox Jr.
Dorothy Cox ships chocolate across the country, and distributers want the next holiday’s candy available as soon as the previous holiday ends. The company is located at 8 Kendrick Road and has been making chocolates since 1928.
“We’ll really start Easter on Feb. 15,” Cox explains, even though the factory has already completed 9,000 pounds of Easter nonpareil production.
The factory produces holiday candy up until the holiday itself. Last minute orders always come in, and sometimes the store runs low on items as well. After that, one of the 11 workers at the factory (there are another four employees at the original candy store in Fairhaven) will pull out candy molds for the next holiday.
The factory storage area is stacked with hundreds of boxes, each containing individual molds. The company bought MomnPops Lollipops several years ago, and the molds included are so numerous that Francis’ wife Shirley doubts she’s seen them all.
Behind the store and at the end of the storage room, a small kitchen holds several mixers, an electric stove capable of baking 30 pounds of candy at once, and several cooling tables. Francis’ son Christopher works at one, dipping strawberries into chocolate. When the tray is full, he drizzles white chocolate over them before packing them in white boxes. The chocolate strawberries are consistently the factory’s best-seller during the Valentine’s season, but traditional chocolates and chocolate roses also do well.
In another small room nearby are the four panning machines which create any of the chocolate covered nuts and berries, as well as the chocolate eggs - they’re run through a machine which keeps them consistently rolling. Longtime employee Ramon Hernandez slowly pours more chocolate in and sifts the candy with a long stick.
The candies enter the machines dull, but the tumble-dry process plus some edible glaze creates smoothy, shiny candies. One of the more popular items to run recently through these machines has been chocolate-covered coffee beans. The factory produces them for a local coffee-grower.
“I sell a ton of chocolate-covered coffee beans,” Cox says.
The most popular candy at the factory is the butter crunch candy - the recipe hasn’t changed since 1928. Francis and Chris heat the mixture up in a large copper pan, and pour it out onto a cooling table. Chris uses roller cutters to cut precise squares into the cooling mixture.
While he does this, Francis adds a tray full of butter sticks to the copper pan for the next batch. He and his Chris then cut sections, turning them over to cool further. When the candy has cooled entirely, it will be broken up along the cut lines, and packaged for sale. The candy is popular any time, and it’s rare that it isn’t in production.
The factory, despite its relatively small size, produces roughly 300,000 pounds of chocolate every year. The store averages a production rate of 5,000 pounds of chocolate and candy every single day, says owner Francis Cox.
It produces even more (about 9,000 pounds per day) during their busy seasons, starting roughly in September and ending around May. The slow season for candy production is the summer, which is why the company recently began Dorothy Cox’s Ice Cream on the Waterfront, located at Pier 3 in New Bedford.
“We don’t want to get bored,” Francis says with a chuckle.