Christine Whelan FEO, March 2, 2023, VOL. 4 ISSUE 14
Patrick Kelley, chocolatier and owner of Molinillo and Cacao Inc., at 264 Ridge Road North, in downtown Ridgeway was finally getting a chance to set up his store and enjoy settling into some normal retail days.
Even though he opened his chocolate store’s door to business on December 22, the following day was a sidestep to deal with the storm, then once back to business, he was provided the opportunity to help earthquake victims across the world.
I visited the store on the Friday afternoon of February 17, three days after Valentine’s Day. I had assumed business would be quiet enough to conduct a short interview.
I was pleasantly wrong.
I walked into the middle of a tour of the inventory. For Patrick Kelley, every display had a story.
He guided the small group of customers who entered moments before me from one side of the room to the other, from one end of the glass display case to the other, then suggested they check out the back room.
After about a half hour of this — customers entering, tours recited back to back — I realized Patrick was having an extraordinary day. I listened, took my photos, and retreated, letting Kelley know I’d be in touch.
We got a chance to chat on the phone the next day. It was a colder day and fewer people were out. Less busy in the store.
“I was looking for a name for the store that was catchy and different.” He brainstormed a few possibilities but nothing seemed to fit his personality, according to Patrick.
Then, he says, he came across it by accident. “One day, I was watching one of those Hallmark movies that I like,” and he continued to explain the storyline that included one character handing another character what she called a molinillo. “It caught my attention because I had never seen or heard of this tool before.”
He checked it out online and found the story of the molinillo, deciding this word would be a part of the name of his business. It felt right.
The molinillo, or stirrer, is a wooden whisk native to Mexico. It has just one purpose, to help people whip hot chocolate or cacao into foamy perfection. Cacao is the raw, unprocessed version of cocoa.
The Man Behind The Molinillo
Patrick was a notary in Quebec. “A notary in Quebec is like a real estate lawyer in Ontario. If you want a mortgage in Quebec, you have to go see a notary,” for example. Adding to give more clarity to the difference. “Lawyers like the fight. Notaries are more like mediators.”
He explained what it takes to be a lawyer or notary in Ontario is different from in Quebec.
“I used to teach at a college for people who want to become paralegals and also at a university at the Masters level for future notaries.”
I heard him tell the customers on that Friday that he was a teacher. I wasn’t surprised at all. His tour was quite educational.
“I still practice law, at a distance, from here to Quebec, in the mornings, about 20-30 hours a week. Then I devote the rest of my day to my store and my horse.” He’s busy and that’s the way he likes it.
Before the store, according to Kelley, he had too much time to watch TV and snack. Ironically, according to Patrick, he’s lost weight since he’s been surrounded by chocolate every day.
“For me, opening these doors is like a social club.”
Helping Turkey and Syria
After the earthquake hit, Patrick received an email from the Peace by Chocolate company in Nova Scotia.
On Tuesday we asked Peace Builders like you from around the world to help us raise urgent relief funds for the earthquake disaster in Turkey and Syria.
I’m humbled to share that together, with the Government of Canada matching, we’ve already raised over $135,000 dollars.
We know these dollars save lives – because they saved ours not so long ago.
Red Cross support told our family the world cared, gave us hope, and is actively helping millions right now survive these cold, wet, and dark days.
Thank you so much for the overwhelming love, kindness, and warmth expressed to our family.
Patrick explained, “Because I am too far from them, in Nova Scotia, to get the chocolate in time for Valentine’s Day — it takes a week — I decided since I couldn’t order new items, I would use whatever I had from Peace by Chocolate I was already selling and use the profits from whatever I sold to give to the Red Cross.
“When people were walking in to buy chocolate for Valentine’s Day, I told them about the profits going to the earthquake victims. Almost everyone bought from that chocolate.” This added extra meaning to their Valentine’s gifts.
“I set the goal to sell 100 items and I sold 101.”
The historical Milonillo and Cacao building began as a family home. Built in 1879, the house was originally built for the Disher family. Four generations of the Disher family lived in the house until it was sold to Andrew Benner in 1926. Several generations of Benners lived there until 1983.
In 2004, the house received a historical designation, given by the Town of Fort Erie under the Ontario Heritage Act. Since then, a couple of businesses have operated from the home.
A plaque is hung to the right of the entrance to the store with the full story.
Looking Forward: Workshops
Patrick divulged, “We will be running workshops Tuesday mornings and Wednesday mornings in the store. Sunday mornings, there will be kids’ workshops, one hour in French, one hour in English.”
Patrick shared that he has met French-speaking people from Welland but there are now more bi-lingual residents living around the Fort Erie area, too.
Being bi-lingual himself, Patrick has easily met people at the barn he keeps his horse, who are French-speaking. They have let him know there is an increase in French-speaking people living in the area. “And they have young kids. They are newer people coming from cities.”
Kelley will be making his own chocolates but will also be selling the other companies’ products he has been selling. “I don’t have to kick them out. I like the diversity it creates. I like the fact that it’s coming from all over Canada and the States.”
Patrick has a plan that includes the store reaching self-sufficiency in two years which coincides with his goal to retire in two years.
Until then, it is very apparent, Patrick Kelley has settled in downtown Ridgeway, to make and sell his chocolates, to teach others about chocolate, and to enjoy the interaction with those who are drawn to the experience of Molinillo and Cacao Inc.
You can learn more by searching on Facebook, Molinillo Cacao. You can also check out his website: molinillo-cacao.ca
Photo of outside of building provided by the Molinillo Cacao Facebook Page
Photos taken indoors by Christine Whelan