David Lauderdale

Chocolate Tree owner to be inducted into Candy Fall of Fame

If life is like a box of chocolates, Pat Green just bit into a chewy caramel.

This weekend, she'll be inducted into the international Candy Hall of Fame.

The woman who opened the Chocolate Tree confectionery in downtown Beaufort 30 years ago with a friend who liked to do cooking demonstrations now joins such industry legends as Milton Hershey and the men who gave the world Jelly Belly jelly beans, Peeps marshmallow chicks and Purdy's chocolates.

"When I got the call, I asked, 'How did you get my name?' " Green said. "This is like the Academy Awards of candy."

She's polishing her acceptance speech for the National Confectionery Sales Association's black-tie ceremony in Florida. She plans to treat it as an Oscar, thanking her producers (her parents), her directors (her siblings) and others.

Together, they've become an overnight success since Green and Bonnie Towle opened shop in 1980. It started when their husbands built a candy case to show examples of what they could teach people to cook. As it turned out, more customers wanted the candy than the lessons. A few years later, Green bought out her partner, and she has manufactured and sold chocolates on Carteret Street ever since.

She leaned on skills learned as business manager of the WBEU radio station.

She credits the Retail Confectioners International organization for its training, clinics and networking. She's a past president of the organization and was Small Business Person of the Year for the state of South Carolina.

Consistent advertising and being "out there" in the community are part of her story. The business participated in last weekend's festival in Port Royal and the recent Girl Scout fundraiser, Death by Chocolate. Green also counts 16 years as a Technical College of the Lowcountry board member as part of her contribution. Criteria for induction into the hall of fame, which is based in Cleveland, include involvement in the professional organization and the community and being in business for at least 20 years.

But in the end, customers are drawn by the chocolate, a perishable luxury that has to be lifted, stirred, heated just right, then coddled in an air-conditioned state of 68 degrees.

They come for the tiger paws, chewy caramel and pecans coated with chocolate; the English toffee; the almond bark; the peanut brittle; the chocolate sand dollars; the truffles; and the boxes and boxes of decadent choices.

For the self-professed "Queen of Chocoholics Unanimous," life really has been like a box of chocolates.