Couple buying Catherine's Chocolates in Great Barrington, will 'expand on' legacy

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Family-run Catherine's Chocolates on Route 7 has been sold to a military couple seeking to grow the hand-dipped and nostalgic-sweets shop.

Former owner Kathleen Sinico is retiring, she said Friday, and is looking forward to spending more time with her grandchildren. Sinico is going to stay at the roughly 50-year-old chocolatier for a while longer to make a smooth transfer to new owners Steven and Trent Kinney.

Sale of the business, building and contents at 260 Stockbridge Road was finalized Friday morning, Sinico and Steven Kinney said. The purchase price was not disclosed, but the business had been listed for $699,000 on bizbuysell.com.

"I'm getting a lot older, and it's hard to keep up with it all," said Sinico, who declined to provide her age. "I love what I do and I'm going to miss being able to walk in the back door and get to work."

Steven Kinney, 30, is a Pittsfield native who recently retired from the Army. Kinney said he and Trent had been thinking about their post-military future and knew that they wanted to own their own business.

The couple had a small business creating and selling gift baskets featuring Berkshire County goods, including chocolates from Catherine's. About two years ago, they heard Sinico was interested in retiring and decided that if no one had bought the business by the time the Kinneys exited the military, they'd buy the chocolatier. Trent Kinney is being deployed to Europe and will retire from the Army in the fall.

"When I was a kid, I was kind of inspired by the `Willy Wonka' movie — the old one," Steven Kinney said. "A part of me always liked the idea of having a candy store."

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Kinney agreed that going from the military to making chocolates might seem like an odd career move, but he expects the attention to detail and precision honed by the military will aid him in the exacting art of chocolate-making. He and Trent were captains in the 10th Mountain Division of the Army. They flew Apache helicopters and led teams of soldiers. The couple met while on deployment in Afghanistan and married in Lenox two years ago.

"As time goes on, we're going to expand on Catherine's legacy, not do away with it," Kinney said. "People who enjoyed it in the past can come and be satisfied."

Kinney said people aren't going to notice much of a change in Catherine's Chocolates at first. He is retaining employees, many of whom have worked at the shop for more than 30 years, and recipes. Kinney said he wants to eventually add an ice cream parlor to the shop to bring in more summertime business.

"Chocolate seems like a cold-weather or a good holiday treat," he said. "During the summer, we tend not to purchase as much. Everyone loves ice cream."

Catherine's Chocolates got its start in 1920s New York City, where Kathleen's great-uncle, Emile, opened a chocolate and soda shop. Emile created many of the recipes still used today at Catherine's. In the mid-1950s, when Kathleen was a girl, her father, mother and sister, Carol, moved to the Berkshires. They opened their first chocolate shop in Great Barrington in 1958. About 20 years later, Kathleen and her husband, Joe, began the Catherine's Chocolates that people are familiar with today.

Sinico said she is confident that the Kinneys will be successful Berkshire chocolatiers.

"I'm pleased [the Kinneys] are here," Sinico said. Steven "is a very nice fellow and smart and he's going to do well here."

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini, 413-629-4621.


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