When you think of the holidays, what makes them the most special to you? Is it family? Friends? Good food?
For the Cocoa Bird, it is all three. For Coni Gleason — aka the Cocoa Bird — it’s grandma’s caramels, handmade chocolates and marshmallows that really make the holidays special. “Food is powerful,” she says. “It’s safe and warm.”
“I remember as a child how special grandma would make the holidays,” Coni says with a twinkle in her eyes. She grew up in the kitchen, watching her grandmother make her famous candies and chocolates that were always quickly devoured by the sweet tooths in the family. “She only made candy for Christmas and Easter, so you knew it was going to get so much sweeter when grandma showed up.”
In all those years, however, grandma never passed on her traditional candy-making knowledge. “Grandma was so secretive about her recipes that she never shared them with anyone,” explains Coni. “She literally took them to her grave.”
Sweet, Sweet Joy
After a painful divorce, Coni found herself seeking the joy that had been lost from her life for some time. She started reminiscing about her childhood, bringing back memories of the joyous occasion of the holidays and, of course, grandma.
“I started making candy,” she smiles. “It was my way of keeping my grandma alive in my life.” As Coni once again found joy in the kitchen, she began collecting recipes from family members who had managed to save some of grandma’s secrets.
“I felt like I had struck gold when I started to find grandma’s recipes. They started to slowly trickle in from aunts and family members.” Coveted above all of grandma’s possessions, these recipes represent love, family, joy and so many memories not easily forgotten.
And for her beloved Cocoa Bird, grandma’s recipes were a way back to a life filled with joy and passion.
Savor Every Moment, Every Bite
Before opening Cocoa Bird, Coni was a professional graphic designer. “But making candy is way more fun,” she says with a chuckle. A brainchild hatched almost four years ago, Cocoa Bird’s doors didn’t open until February 2019 after Coni finally found a space to sell her beautifully unique and delicious confections.
She specializes in small production of mouthwatering artisan goodness: decadent truffles, fudge brownies, caramels and — her favorite — toasted coconut marshmallows. Everything in her immaculate display cases is made by her, packaged by her and sold by her.
“I love watching people try things that they have never tasted together before,” she gushes. “Seeing their reactions and watching them go in for a second bite of enjoyment is the ultimate.”
Walking into Cocoa Bird is like walking back in time into grandma’s kitchen and delighting one’s senses. “Remembering what it was like to be young and a child — that is what inspires my creativity.” She loves coming up with new recipes and concoctions for her clients to try.
“So often we get caught up in being an adult. We need to be a kid again; enjoy and savor chocolate.”