By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.
Photos by Danielle Debley
From humble beginnings inside her home in Hummelstown, Tina Marie Lerch began making chocolate candy, experimenting with different recipes and refining her craft with different techniques. Armed with nothing but determination and an amazing desire to make artisan candies that people would crave, Lerch has turned Chocolates By Tina Marie into a recognized brand.
Lerch opened her first shop at the Farmstead Farm Market on Loudermilch Road in Palmyra in August of 2007. “On July 20 of this year we opened our second location at 16 S. Rosanna Street in Hummelstown,” she says.
“We feature over 30 handmade specialty chocolates including gluten and sugar free, along with an array of other products such as retro candies, chocolate coated nuts and fruits, and gummies,” says Lerch. “We also offer specialty chocolates for weddings, birthdays, and the holidays.”
She is proud that Gov. Tom Wolf uses her specialty chocolates for events held at the Governor’s Mansion. “Gov. Wolf’s favorite is my Keystone stencil,” she says. Lerch also uses honey from the Governor’s bee hives located at the mansion and at the old state hospital to make her ever popular peanut butter crunch candy and peanut butter meltaways. “When the Gov.’s honey isn’t available we use local honey,” she adds. “We believe in using Pennsylvania products.”
“Many folks wonder why my husband Ed and I decided to put our hearts and souls into something like chocolate,” says Lerch. “Well, I had always worked in the corporate world and eventually I decided enough was enough. I took a deep breath, and decided I wanted to do something fun for a change. I had always loved baking and after I retired my baking skills morphed into chocolate. I created and refined my peanut butter meltaways and then I knew I had found my passion,” she says.
“After I retired, I experimented with different recipes and I made chocolates of all shapes and sizes. I gave samples to my friends and family and they loved what I had produced. They then encouraged me to go into the candy making business,” she explains. “Ed and I designed packaging that we thought was worthy of something so special. Then my ‘bonus son,’ Phil, (my stepson), joined us in our endeavor. We were a go.”
Lerch says, “I believe If you don’t try, nothing will happen. So we gave it a try, and luckily something did happen. People seemed to agree with us, that our small batch chocolates were the best they’ve ever tasted. And they appreciate the artisan designs that makes Chocolates By Tina Maire unique,” she says.
“Over the years, as we have grown, we have never strayed from our original values of creativity, quality, a sense of experimentation, and wanting to share it all with everyone we know.”
Aside from offering unique chocolates and artisan candies, Lerch is bolstering her holiday gift options with custom-made gift baskets and candy platters and more. Her sea salted caramels, walnut caramel clusters, and molded chocolates in holiday shapes such as turkeys and Santas are ever popular. So are her novelty chocolates made in from the cutest molds in shapes of animals and other characters. “It’s all about cute,” says Lerch. “That’s what sells.”
Chocolates By Tina Marie has also branched out into sponsoring monthly Super Sweet Sundays. “On Dec. 9 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. the public can join us at the shop for a wine and chocolate sampling. The wine is from Olivero’s Vineyard,” says Lerch. “Folks can also build and purchase a custom gift basket which can include a bottle of wine and wine glasses. It will be a fun event.”
Lerch also appears regularly on “Good Day PA,” ABC27’s daily lifestyle program, which airs at 10 a.m. each week day, demonstrating the chocolate making techniques she employs. She also takes her show on the road, selling Chocolates By Tina Marie at craft shows both large and small during the year.
“Do I miss my former life in the corporate world?” asks Lerch. “Absolutely not. Making candy is what I love doing,” she says. “It’s always been a passion. Now it’s my life.”
Chocolates By Tina Marie, 16 S. Rosanna St, Hummelstown, PA . Phone: (717) 903-5233. Hours: Wednesday—Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m; Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to