Last month, I attempted to make a giant piano keyboard out of chocolate. My mom had once created one for me and my second grade musical friends at a Valentine's Day "piano party," where students came to play, parents came to listen, and everybody came to eat.
So this year, I tried to replicate the gargantuan piano cake my mom had designed with such panache. I vaguely recalled that she threw in a dollop of cream, a splash of vanilla, a handful of chocolate chips, a pitcher of melted dark chocolate, and other ingredients. But as I tasted my way along this distantly delicious culinary journey, I realized my results were going to be less than satisfactory. While it is no effort for me to play musical chestnuts by ear on the piano, cooking up chocolate pianos by ear is another matter entirely.
I decided to call the project to a halt and order something from the Internet.
Googling my way through various chocolate keywords, I arrived at a Web site that offered just what I was looking for: chocolate miniature grand pianos with white chocolate keys, weighing approximately nine ounces, filled with tiny chocolate notes.
These were pianos I could give as gifts and sink my teeth into.
With a few more clicks of the mouse I placed my order. The Web site promised quick delivery from the Ann Hemyng Chocolate Factory from the hills of Pennsylvania to my doorstep in Hoboken.
But I got an added surprise.
Within two hours I received a delivery confirmation e-mail from the factory and the following note: "I noticed your shipping address is Hoboken, New Jersey. I lived at 717 Bloomfield St. years ago while my husband finished his senior year at Stevens Institute. My mother-in-law was born in that house in 1893. [Number] 717 Bloomfield St. was the first house to have electricity on that block. My husband graduated from Stevens but is now a retired mechanical engineer. Hoboken has certainly come up from what it was when we lived there. I always liked the homes on Castle Point Terrace with their fabulous view of New York City. I myself am a native of New Jersey, and grew up in Bergenfield and Cresskill. P.S. We can also make you a chocolate guitar.
Who was Louise?
What's up with that?
I called Louise at the phone number listed on the e-mail without a second's hesitation. Coincidences like these don't happen every day.
Louise Spindler, the CEO and founder of Ann Hemyng Candy, Inc., is a warm, friendly person who graciously gave me details of her journey from Hoboken to Trumbauersville, Penn., where she founded her factory 20 years ago.
Louise is married to former Hoboken resident Joe Spindler, whose maternal grandfather, John Mehl, purchased the home at 717 Bloomfield St. around 1880. John set up a produce distribution business located on Third Street in Hoboken, traveling often to Europe to purchase potatoes. His youngest daughter, Minnie Elizabeth Mehl, was born in 1893 and married Joseph P. Spindler, a CPA who came from what was once West Hoboken but is now Union City.
Minnie, Louise's mother-in-law, was actually born in the 717 Bloomfield St. house, as were her four brothers and sisters.
Minnie and Joseph's oldest son Joe married Louise in 1950, while he was a student at Stevens Institute. The newlyweds rented the third floor of 717 Bloomfield St., where Joe's Aunt Clara Mehl still lived. When Joe graduated, he and Louise moved to Pennsylvania where they resided until 1971, at which time they relocated to Bridgewater, New Jersey.
While bringing up her family, Louise worked for two of the Johnson & Johnson companies and for Burroughs before it became Unisys. When the last of her four children graduated from college, she decided to start her own business.
In 1984, she and one of her relatives purchased a small candy shop in Lahaska, Penn. As they expanded, their need for a much larger venue eventually led them to Trumbauersville, a small town in Upper Bucks County. In 1994, the Ann Hemyng Chocolate Factory became the first chocolate company in the world to have a Web site, complete with an online catalogue and ordering page.
A cyber pioneer
Having preceded Hershey, Ghirardelli, Godiva, and numerous other chocolate planetary giants on the Internet, Louise is a real cyber pioneer. About 10 years ago she appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in a segment about women who left corporate positions to start their own businesses.
I made a follow-up call to Louise to thank her for telling me her story, and to compliment her on the wonderfully crafted chocolate pianos. This time I remembered to ask her how Ann Hemyng came to be the name of her chocolate factory.
"Oh, that," Louise laughed. "It's a fictitious name, a trademark. Makes it look kind of old-fashioned, especially with the 'y' in it."
"It's great," I told her, "and by the way, I have already eaten almost the entire piano. The only part left is the top."
"That's a lot of chocolate to eat at once," she chuckled, "but it's better not to let chocolate sit around too long. It doesn't age gracefully."
"Don't worry," I assured her, "these pianos will never grow old!"
"Isn't this something!" Louise exclaimed. "If I hadn't picked up on your address and mentioned it to you, you never would have known how close these chocolate pianos were to you after all!"
"No, I wouldn't have," I agreed.
Now about those chocolate guitars...