Shannon Powell's customer base is a blend of ethnicities, ages and backgrounds.
"Chocolate is a great equalizer. Everyone loves it. It doesn't matter about your economic status, social standing or political views," said Ms. Powell, who owns Shanhil Sweets on Central Avenue.
Ms. Powell opened her first confection shop in February 2007 about a block from her current location. In a little more than 600 square feet, she started with some of her own chocolate creations and some "retro" candy -- candy that the thirty-and forty somethings could remember from their childhoods, she said.
On Feb. 5, she opened in the former Weathers' Florist building at 2148 Central Ave. with 2,600 square feet and has worked to expand her selections.
"You need to listen to what your market needs and wants. The CSRA is a lot different from Atlanta, Columbia or Charleston," she said.
Customers in the surrounding Summerville neighborhood began making requests.
Her varieties of chocolate bark, irregularly shaped pieces of chocolate with different flavors mixed in, have become very popular, she said. Flavors include peaches and cream, dark chocolate with pecans and strawberry delight with white chocolate.
She also makes various flavors of truffles and other chocolate items.
Her husband, Hilton, also helps make some of the items, including chocolate-covered strawberries and Augusta pralines.
Ms. Powell has also added a line of panini sandwiches and some gourmet food items.
Other baked goods, including brownies, blondies and lemon bars, are on the way.
Shanhil Sweets is the realization of a longtime dream of Ms. Powell.
"When I was 10 years old everyone else was watching Saturday-morning cartoons, and I was watching Julia Child," she said.
While other young girls might have made their first foray into baking by making cupcakes or a cake from a mix, Ms. Powell's started with popovers.
"I wanted to make popovers like Julia Child," she said.
After childhood, however, Ms. Powell took a different career path. She went into graphic design until a bout with cancer made her start dreaming again. In her late 30s, she began training for the career she'd always wanted.
She graduated from two different chocolatier programs at Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2005 and 2006.
Shanhil Sweets is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, call (706) 736-7426.
Reach Charmain Brackett at firstname.lastname@example.org.