How Sweet It Is

"Elements of Taste" is the Newest Candy Shop on the Seacoast

By Liz Premo

Atlantic News, Thursday, December 11, 2003

A SIGHT OF DELIGHTS -- 'Elements of Taste' proprietor John Watkins stands amongst the impressive display of succulent sweets and tasteful gifts offered at his new store, located at 893 Lafayette Road, Hampton NH, right next to the offices of the Atlantic News. [Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]

HAMPTON -- Something sweet has arrived in the Seacoast -- a brand new candy store called "Elements of Taste," located at 893 Lafayette Road in Hampton. This amazing shop carries a breathtaking inventory of confections that's doubly delicious and twice as nice, thanks to a close connection with a century-old candy company based right here in New Hampshire.

"We make candy as Hutchinson's [including] fudge, caramel corn and peanut brittle," says owner John Watkins, "but are selling Hutchinson's Candy and a variety of other things as Elements of Taste."

Elements of Taste officially opened on November 1 and business, according to Watkins, "has been pretty good. We've had a steady flow of people. I'm happy with the response we've had." Indeed, word seems to have caught on quickly, and customers are making it a point to stop by and see all that Elements of Taste has to offer throughout its 23 different departments.

Watkins, who entered the candy business after purchasing Hutchinson's a year and a half ago, has more than 30 years of experience in voice and data communications, sales, marketing and customer service. His Rochesterbased candy company distributes its trio of products to about 300 business within New England and beyond.

"We do very well selling to different shops, country stores and independent grocers," says Watkins, who recently became a member of the New Hampshire Grocers' Association. "Hutchinson's Famous Fudge" is available at Elements of Taste in a simply marvelous chocolate, as well as chocolate walnut and pecan penuche (and a combination of the two). "It's a very good fudge," says Watkins. Hutchinson's delicious caramel corn comes in a number of flavors (traditional, maple, hazelnut); in fact, customers visiting Elements of Taste for the first time throughout the month of December receive a complementary bag of the tasty treat.

Then there's the other treats that one will discover upon stepping into Elements of Taste. There are three rooms where shoppers can browse and make their selections from a tantalizing variety of confections. The choices are exceptional -- who ever knew there could be that many types of truffles? There's an entire case full of them, with flavors like hazelnut, milk chocolate, tiramisu, mint, amaretto, raspberry, plum, Black Forest, and champagne. Displayed in another nearby case are assorted chocolates sold by the pound or the piece: colonial truffles, maple walnut creams, coconut croquets, pecan patties, peanut butter chip, and more.

Yet another case contains an assortment of Asher's sugar-free, low sodium candies and candy bars that provide a healthy alternative to traditional sweets. Then there's the specialty items, such as Birnn Chocolates of Vermont, mixed nuts in decorative tins, chocolate pops for Hanukkah, peppermint pigs (complete with hammer and pouch) for Christmas, and wafer-thin, cream-filled, chocolate-coated Slicks, made by Joseph Schmidt Confectioners, Inc. of San Francisco. These confectionery delights come embellished with "mosaic" designs similar to those found in the city's landmark Coit Tower. The designs indicate the luscious flavor of each individual Slick, like coffee, mint cream, dark truffle, white caramel and coconut.

Step a little further into a nearby smaller room and you become a kid again - there's jelly beans, bubble tape, candy buttons, pirate's gold coins )in milk chocolate, of course), jelly candies (bears, frogs, raspberries, worms, tropical fish, gummi pizza) and salt water taffy in banana, chocolate, watermelon, orange, cherry vanilla and grape. There are also cookie coloring kits, featuring popular cartoon characters such as Spongebob Squarepants and Jimmy Neutron, each stamped on a white-coated sugar cookie and ready to be "colored" using edible "ink" markers (included in each kit). (Also in this room is a window where customers will be able to view all the activity that will soon be taking place in the candy shop's kitchen.)

Though he's surrounded by the sweet stuff on a daily basis, Watkins admits that he "is not a chocolate person or a sweets person. Ice cream is my weakness." For those who share similar tastes, there's a freezer case stocked with different ice cream treats, including those made by famous by Vermont's own Ben and Jerry.

"We're not just a candy shop," Watkins goes on to say. That's quite evident once you've passed through a small corridor (lined with gift items for both people and pets) and entered a third room that features wall-to-wall gourmet and gift ideas. Whimsical frames, cheese boards made from flattened, recycled wine bottles, maple syrups infused with sweet spices and vanilla or ginger and cardamom, and Turtle Dove Gourmet pestos (in basic/garlic, grilled pepper, wild mushroom, and artichoke) are a tasteful place to start. Fanciful beverage napkins by Erika Oller, Keller's marzipan fruits, Salt Marsh Pottery items from Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and "themed" Picnic Time Gift Baskets containing place settings for four, wine glasses, napkins and other accessories will spark your gift-giving imagination, just in time for Christmas.

Running Hutchinson's "Ye Kandy Shope" and Elements of Taste is somewhat of a family affair, with Watkins' daughters Stacey Persh and April Chapman helping their father out at both locations. Plus, says Watkins, 73-yearold Dick Hutchinson "still makes the fudge" at the Rochester home-base. Watkins wants his customers to know that "we don't want to be viewed as a shop that you only go into when you want to buy a special gift for someone." Elements of Taste is a place where customers can come anytime to enjoy a free sample, talk about what's new and good in the world of candy, and make a tasteful selection from an incredible assortment of treats that are all very sweet indeed. So stop by and see what's in store. Elements of Taste is located at 893 Lafayette Road in Hampton. For more information, call 926-3033.