Mark this week down as the end of an era for the Chocolate Tree, a downtown Beaufort confectionery that has tempted many a sweet tooth for more than 30 years.
Owner and candy-making maven Pat Green officially transferred ownership of the store she and a friend first opened in 1980 to her sister and son.
"It's like handing over my baby," Green said. "I'm happy the business is staying in the family because I couldn't just give my baby to a stranger. ... And I'm not just handing over my child to watch it stay stagnant. I want growth and nurturing."
Her sister, Joy King, and son, Gene Green, have big dreams for the small store on Carteret Street.
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Nonetheless, they plan to continue using the tried-and-true recipes that turned the Chocolate Tree into a Beaufort institution and helped Pat Green earn a spot in the international Candy Hall of Fame last year
"She really set a foundation," Gene Green said. "We're trying to hold onto that but expand her legacy to a larger population through the Internet."
The new co-owners each bring with them extensive experience. King has worked with the Chocolate Tree since it first opened on Port Republic Street as a candy-making supplies store. She was there when Pat Green bought out her business partner in 1982 and moved to Carteret Street, where the store shifted focus to candy production.
Gene Green "can't really remember a time when the store wasn't a part of my life." He grew up with it and has been making candy at the Chocolate Tree for seven years.
"I've been around it so long, I don't think I can really smell a chocolate anymore, which is my cross to bear," he said.
As Pat Green officially says "goodbye" and "thank you" to the longtime customers she's grown to love, her son and sister say they'll work hard to maintain her reputation and command the same loyalty.
"We just hope that people continue to support us like they supported Pat," King said. "We're still Beaufort's candy store."