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Red Wing Confectionery General Manager Jessica Mattson (right) and team member Sandy Olson welcome guests into the downtown shop to purchase or enjoy onsite a variety of hand-made chocolate treats, toffees, coffees, ice cream, and more. (Republican Eagle photos by Amanda Greenwood)

Progress: Mattson captains confectionary

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Jessica Mattson dipped into the sweet world of chocolatiers as a part-time worker more than three years ago.

With a degree in elementary education, Mattson taught for Under the Rainbow in Red Wing when she began working at Red Wing Confectionery.

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“It was a fun job on the side,” she said.

Now, as full-time, hands-on captain of the confectionery team, she manages the storefront operations as well as the candy-making process in the “back of the shop.”

“It is a tremendous hands-on process,” owner Donna Nesbitt said about managing the confectionery. “Certain products can only be received through certain vendors, and those vendors have minimum ordering requirements. Jessica really has to oversee all of that … and she does all of the inventory, hiring, training.”

Nesbitt’s Nursery Inc. of Prescott purchased Red Wing Confectionery June 1, 2013, from Kathy Boos.

“We were very fortunate to have a turn-key operation,” Nesbitt said. “Kathy was a very good chocolatier, and she taught Jessica.”

With Mattson, team members including Sandy Olson and Jennifer Anderes have worked at the confectionery since before the change in ownership, and Mattson has been bringing all involved in the transaction up-to-speed on the confectionery side of things.

“It’s a very detailed operation,” Nesbitt said.

Even the temperature of the building is instrumental to creating the chocolate.

“We have to keep the building below 70 degrees,” Mattson said. “If it gets any higher than that, the chocolate will start to turn white.

The most finicky of the chocolates is the dark, according to Mattson. The dark chocolate requires the most tempering, usually a three-hour process to ensure the perfect consistency, and it is also the most likely to turn white.

Daily, Mattson takes stock of the storefront goods to best plan the day’s batches.

“I know what goes into each box, and what we need determines what is made that day,” Mattson said. “There are 10 pieces of candy in our variety boxes, so that is 10 big batches of candy we need to make to fill that box.”

Scheduling also is a big part of the candy making-process. Two people minimum are needed so that the front of the store can be manned while another team member focuses on the dipping, coating, filling, wrapping and more.

Almost all of the treats include tedious work, whether that be hand-separating the nuts for the bear claws or wrapping foil around little chocolates.

“That’s the important part,” Mattson said. “That’s what makes them cute.”

Mattson explained that making candy is a very chronological process. For instance, to make almond roca treats, English toffee must have been made beforehand. The toffees are then dipped in tempered milk chocolate and coated in almond toppings before being chilled and packaged.

Nesbitt said one of the most unique aspects of the confectionery is its customization abilities.

Special ordering is available, which Mattson spearheads. The confectionery fills orders for special events, such as weddings, and can customize the candy along with the foil colors to suit the event.

The St. James Hotel has partnered with the confectionery to create chocolates molded with the hotel’s logo. Mattson said that the foiled sweets — complete with a custom label — is part of the St. James’ turn-down service.

Mattson also highlighted the seasonal specialties of the store, which include chocolate bunnies and eggs for Easter, chocolate-dipped strawberries for Valentine’s Day, 2-pound wrapped chocolates for Christmas as well as holiday platters wrapped in pretty packaging.

“Holidays are huge chocolate times,” she said.

Along with chocolates and toffees, the confectionery offers hot and cold beverages, Izzy’s ice cream from St. Paul and Nesbitt Nursery goods such as local and natural apple pie filling, applesauce and six homemade wraps.

The confectionery is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

This story originally appeared in part 1 of the 2014 Red Wing Republican Eagle Progress Edition, titled Start to Finish. The three-part series features local businesses, artisans and community groups describing their step-by-step processes. 

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