It’s a milestone that’s worth celebrating — 25 years of business. Luckily for Sweet Designs Chocolatier owner Ines Rehner, she knows just how to honor the occasion: with chocolate. The popular Lakewood spot known for its decadent truffles, salted caramels and even vegan chocolates has had to pivot like many other local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rehner now offers a window-shopping experience, complete with a full installation of the shop’s menu at its Detroit Avenue storefront.
Customers can stop by and pick from a variety of options, including the Thinking of You Chocolate Assortment ($30), a great option to send to a friend you’ve been missing during quarantine. Rehner shares how her sweet tooth led to her career, how her childhood influenced her and more.
I opened Sweet Designs 25 years ago. I came from what was back then Yugoslavia, which then became Croatia. A lot of my recipes and chocolates have a very European, rich and creamy taste. That’s because of a high percentage of cocoa butter.
When I came to America, like a lot of immigrants did, I thought I needed to do my best. I didn’t necessarily know that I was going to be a chocolatier. What led me to it was that I grew up on a farm. On the farm, we made everything from scratch. When we made cheese, it was from scratch. You have to start by milking the cow and then you have to make the cheese. When we made wine, we had to take the grapes and turn them into wine. Everything was like that.
Where I’m from nobody was really making chocolate back then. But I’ve always had a sweet tooth. So when the opportunity came to me, I looked around. I was exposed to chocolate once I came to this country. Chocolatiering is something I learned to do on my own. I had an idea, and I still do, of how it needs to taste. I know which flavors go together. I don’t combine flavors just for fun or for a trend.
We put a lot of emphasis on fresh ingredients. It’s been fun, but a lot of work. I’ve built a lot of lifelong, wonderful relationships. Also, through the business, I’ve been able to make a difference in other people’s lives. What I realized later on is that it isn’t just about giving someone a paycheck. People need a lot more than that in a lot of different ways. — as told to Viola Sullivan