Around the world in chocolate
Down the path from Main Street in Stockbridge into the alleyway called The Mews, a new chocolate and coffee shop called, Peace, Love, & Chocolate has opened this winter.
The woman behind this creation is year 36-year-old Ali Aronoff of Stockbridge. The Mews and Stockbridge have always played a prominent location in Aronoff's adult life. Her husband, Jonathan, is a town native, and his family still lives on Yale Hill. Ali and Jonathan only live a mile from Main Street with her children: Meghan Cum, 12, and Jacob Cum, 9.
Aronoff said food and imagination have shaped her life. Fifteen years ago, when she first moved to Stockbridge, she and her former husband, Pierre Cum, opened Ali's restaurant where Once Upon A Table is now. After a few years, Ali's closed, and she and Cum then bought The Neighborhood Diner in Great Barrington. Cum still owns this popular gathering space, 11 year later.
For a while, Aronoff left the day-to-day routine of the restaurant business and went her own way as a personal trainer and as a private chef and food consultant. She worked with clients who had high cholesterol, weight challenges and allergies.
"I then decided I wanted to get out of the kitchen, so to speak, and create something that I was really passionate about, which is handmade, artisan chocolate," she said. "I wanted to move away from anything that was corporate and chemical. My dream was to totally indulge in the very best chocolates from around the world, and this is why I ended up here."
Robin Fleet, owner of Heirlooms Jewelry next door to the chocolate shop, praised her new neighbor.
"I am overjoyed that after 14 years Ali has returned to The Mews," Fleet said. "Ali's spark of creative energy, enthusiasm, knowledge and love of fine chocolates adds a vibrancy to this charming, romantic hideaway."
Aronoff said an international focus gave her the name for her new shop.
"The inspiration for this venture came from returning to the finest quality of handmade chocolate," she added. "I would always tell my training clients to eat chocolate everyday but not to waste calories that are full of empty sugar. All of the overseas and local companies that I buy from are so pure. It is back to the basics of nuts, nuggets, and fruits but not a lot of additives. I love this attitude of doing it well with premiere ingredients."
Aronoff's family lives by an eco-friendly and socially responsible philosophy, and these concepts are woven into the daily practices of her shop. Her containers, shopping bags, coffee cups and even the little plastic holders can be composted.
"Much of what I have you will not find anyplace else, as it is hard to ship," she said. "Also, I am trying to showcase Berkshire and New England chocolate makers, gelato artists and bakers. It is important to highlight the Berkshires, as they are here in our backyard. I sell Josh Needleman's amazingly superior products from Chocolate Springs of Lenox. I have all of these stellar world products, and Josh's chocolate is in the same class as these imports."
Most of the Aronoff's chocolate companies represent fair trade, sustainable cocoa farms and farmers. One of the best sellers in her store is the Vintage Plantation chocolate frog from Ecuador, she said. The frog-shaped mold was created for the rainforest alliance, whose foremost priority is to be environmentally responsible.
"I needed to take this into consideration, and I wanted my business to represent sustainability," Aronoff said. "There is something about chocolate that is healing. It was important to me to have these 12 different languages represent being conscious, and to act responsibly in our global setting. It lets people know how personal these issues are to me."
If you go ...
What: Peace, Love and Chocolate.
Where: 36 Main Street, Stockbridge.
Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Closed Tuesday until Memorial Day.
Information: (413) 298-0020.
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