When Catherine Davi decided to buy her favorite Five Towns’ candy store five years ago, she got right to work on her vision of expanding its products and delivery options, creating a more sophisticated atmosphere and renaming it Dolce Confections.
This elegant sweet shop, which offers gourmet chocolates and top-quality treats, is accented with large marble tables, crystal chandeliers and artful displays, all of which are inviting and immaculate.
“We have customers who tell us all the time that they love the look of the store and that it’s unexpected in this neighborhood to have a store like this,” said Davi, a Franklin Square resident and member of the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association. “People always say that this is a store you would usually only see in Manhattan, but they are so glad to have it here.”
The distinct and exceptional taste of Belgium chocolate, which is used in 90 percent of her candy, sets her products apart from most competitors, she said. Also, all her products are kosher.
“A lot of other places use coatings and compounds, which technically is not chocolate,” she said. “A lot of it is not a high quality cocoa, and some have coatings with a waxy taste. Some others use melting wafers that you could put in the microwave. It’s like something that anyone could do in their own home.”
In 2007, Davi took over the 25-year-old store, known as Baskets By Expressions, which she still uses as a DBA ("doing business as"). About two years ago she moved the store from the heart of the Hewlett business district into the old Fortunoff’s of Hewlett location at 1319 Broadway and changed the name to Dolce Confections, which she felt better represented her store. Another big change was the addition of a coffee bar, frozen yogurt, gelato, crepes, waffles and a professional popcorn machine.
Due to Hurricane Sandy, Dolce was closed for about a week. Since reopening, the store hasn’t been doing the same level of business it normally does this time of year, which Davi said is understandable given the circumstances. But she is confident that with the holidays drawing near, sales will pick up thanks to her large roster of corporate clients and loyal local customers.
Right now, the store is flush with holiday gifts for Christmas and Hanukkah, including a chocolate menorah studded with blue and white candy stars, hand-decorated Santa figurines, baskets filled with “gelt,” festive popcorn tins and gourmet platters filled with cheese, crackers, jam and other snacks.
At the time Davi bought Dolce Confections, she also owned an Italian gourmet shop in another neighborhood. She decided to sell that business, so she could give her full attention to her new venture, Dolce, which she was even more passionate about. She said that her children have always been a part of the family business, especially her daughter Maria, who Davi brought in as a partner.
Davi said that a big part of her success is her affinity for retail business and her people skills. Leon Boritz, owner of Tios Fine Jewelry, concurs.
“The owner is a very nice lady,” he said. “I did some work for her on a ring, and she brought me a box of chocolate. She made a really nice store. I think she wanted to make it a high-end kind of place. My daughter really likes it — she goes there a lot.
Davi also considers herself a fair and accommodating employer who has created a family-type environment with the staff.
“We have employees that were with this company for over 15 years that stayed after I took over,” Davi said. “We always tell the girls [on staff] how amazing they are and how lucky we are to have great employees. It’s like a family here. I realize that things come up, so I’m very flexible. It’s not just about making the money — it also has to do with enjoying your job.”
Tania Menendez, a 12-year employee of the company, said the feeling is mutual.
“She’s so easy to work with, and she’s like a mom to me,” she said. “If there’s ever a problem with anything, she always knows how to handle any situation. I am definitely glad I stayed on. It’s a great job.”
Rosemarie Dorn, of Inwood, is a big fan of Dolce, because she said the staff is very professional, and the products are delicious.
“Once I got something that comes in a pizza box,” she said. “It’s half popcorn and half pretzel. Everybody loved it. The girl that helped me was so nice. She was helping me decide what to get and giving me ideas. They’re all nice in there”
While chocolate dipped pretzels are the shop’s biggest seller, one of Davi’s favorite indulgences is still the Belgian chocolate candies.
"It's delicious, but most people don't realize it's also healthy," she said. “I eat three pieces a day.”