By JENNIFER AMATO
Inez Nedrick celebrated her birthday in January.
Trying to decide on a special and unique gift for their mother, Nedrick’s daughters saw a posting on Facebook about Newspaper Media Group’s (NMG) Chocolate & Wine event.
“I thought it would make a nice gift from my sister and me for her birthday,” said Erica Nedrick of Brick. “It has chocolate and wine. She loves chocolate and we all love wine.”
“It was something special for us to do together,” her sister Keisha Gaddis of Red Bank said.
Thus, the three decided to not only attend the seven-hour-long festival of sweet treats, savory snacks and glam goods, but to also purchase similar necklaces from a jewelry vendor.
“They had the best jewelry for my style,” said Gaddis, noting the three women spent more than a half hour looking at crosses from the Silver Boss.
“This was a wonderful birthday gift,” Inez Nedrick said. “This is beautiful. It’s a very nice experience.”
Of the more than 30 vendors who attended the third annual event on Jan. 28 at Branches in West Long Branch, the family also noted the chocolate turtles from Birnn Chocolates, the cakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes, the spicy caramel ganache from 2 Chicks With Chocolate, the waffle samples from Coney Waffle and the dips from Gourmet Creations as standouts.
“Now that I’ve tried it, I’m definitely going to go [to the storefronts],” Erica Nedrick said.
“It exposed us to a lot of places we didn’t know about from around here,” Gaddis added.
The appeal of such an event, besides just the free samples, was the fact that the event is one of the few things to do in the early winter months, according to both attendees and vendors.
“It’s something nice to do on the weekend, on a Saturday, since it’s chilly and winter out there,” Veronica Puza of Point Pleasant said. “And chocolate and wine never hurt.”
She also said it is “nice to support local vendors.”
“It works out really well if a newspaper group is sponsoring the event.”
Angela Smith, director of marketing and events for NMG, agreed.
“A company of our values and goals is committed to the community,” she said. “We thank the businesses and our readers for supporting our event for another year.”
Lauren Simons, advertising sales manager for NMG, said most of the vendors were very happy to meet the more than 500 people who attended. She said about 70 percent of the shoppers had attended previous Chocolate & Wine events.
“For them, I think it’s a nice crowd. It’s a good time of year to get the word out,” she said. “And a lot of people do shopping for Valentine’s Day.”
With the upcoming holiday in mind, Nisha Shah used her business to express her two loves: baking and her three sons.
Shah created Batter Up just before her 50th birthday, deciding to supplement her career in advertising making creations such as chocolate chip brownie Oreo cookies, dirt cups made out of pudding and leftover cookie crumbs and Rice Krispie oatmeal squares.
“[Batter Up] is a combination of a love of baseball and a love of batter. I always have cookie batter on hand.”
Currently working out of a space in Freehold, Shah used Chocolate & Wine as her first public event to showcase her delights to the public.
“I thought, if I don’t do it now, it’s never going to happen,” she said.
Another local vendor with a sugary past is Maple Magic Confectionery, whose story was borne out of a maple sugar farm in upstate New York.
The cousin of co-owner Lisa Danchak’s husband owns the Diehl Homestead Farm in New York’s Callicoon. She tried their maple cotton candy and thought about bringing the concept to New Jersey; she said she bought a cotton candy machine the next week.
Now offering more than 40 all-natural flavors such as maple sugar, strawberry, chocolate and butter beer out of their East Brunswick location, the two said adults are drawn in just as much as children.
“It’s fun,” co-owner Shari Mooney said. “It’s ageless.”
“It’s nostalgia, too,” Danchak said.
Touting their product as all natural and low calorie, as a 1-ounce container has just 114 calories, the two said what makes the product more special is that each contains real maple sugar from the farm.
They also produce more than just plastic bags of fluffy spun sugar, as they offer their product in cones, push pops and other means. They also bring their machines to spin live at special events such as weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and school programs.
“This is a nice event. In the winter there aren’t so many to get your name out there,” Danchak said of wanting to spin live at Chocolate & Wine for the third year. “We read the newspaper every week for activities for the kids, activities for the family. We look forward to getting it on Thursday. It keeps us up on what’s going on in the community.”
The community is the focus of NMG, which used Chocolate & Wine as its kickoff event for 2017. More activities will be held throughout the market of 40 weekly publications, including Pizza Palooza and Taste of Philly.
Contact Jennifer Amato at firstname.lastname@example.org.