Behind the Counter: SD’s “Golden Girls” - BJ, Nancy and Michelle


This month we’d like to recognize three extra-special Sweet Designs volunteers whose considerable skills and dedication helped us get through this year’s holiday crunch period in style. Their work ethic, sense of humor and flexibility in the kitchen and in working directly with customers were awesome – a tip of the hat to each of them.  The “Golden Girls” brought joy to their work colleagues and we hope to you, our customers. Let’s learn a bit more about them. 

Truffles:  What’s been the biggest surprise for you at Sweet Designs? 

BJ:  I was amazed to see what the whole process is for making chocolate.   I’ve spent most of my time in the kitchen and I’ve been most surprised by how “hands-on” everything is.  We do everything here - we make our own fillings for truffles and while some other companies use machines, we do it all by hand. I’ve even said to my friends, ‘you know those nonpareils, they’re done by hand’. It’s amazing, these people are so talented and it’s such a nice group to work with. These people are my candy family. 

Truffles: Your favorite candy? 

BJ: That’s a tough question – probably the caramels- sea salt caramels.  They’re all good.  We don’t make a bad candy here. 

Truffles:  When you aren’t working, your off-work passions? 

BJ:  I belong to a car group, and we go to cruise-ins and car shows on Mondays and Wednesdays in the summer with my buds. 

Truffles:  Your favorite car? 

BJ:  That’s easy, it’s my baby. - it’s my red ‘57 Chevy that my daughter and son-in-law gave me and my late husband.  I have two show cars – my other one is a 2005 Ford Focus and there’s only 75 of them with a nitrous tank in them. 

Truffles:  Nancy, how did you happen to come to work with Ines? 

Nancy:  I was working in the post office when a friend of Ines’s husband John mentioned he was helping out at a chocolate shop, and I’d always been interested in candy.  Within a week or so, Ines called and I started to work.  That was over 25 years ago and I’ve been volunteering here ever since then and have become fast friends and a neighbor of John and Ines. 

Truffles:  Things you’ve learned while you’ve worked here? 

Nancy:  Just how complicated making chocolate-making is. Chocolate is temperamental and the process involves so much handwork.  I don’t think the average customer realizes how complex the process is. 

Truffles:  Which of your many tasks at Sweet Designs do you enjoy the most? 

Nancy:  I’m mainly in the kitchen. I don’t do the front of store or the shipping.  What I enjoy the most is seeing the results of what we create and the joy it brings our customers. 

Truffles: Your favorite chocolate? 

Nancy:  It’s the same as BJ’s.  Salty caramels. It’s the sweet-salty taste.  Before that, pecan patties were my favorite. 

Truffles: When you aren’t working? 

Nancy:  I spend a lot of time reading mysteries, science fiction and autobiographies. 

Truffles:  How did you happen to come to work at SD, Michelle? 

Michelle:  I’ve known Ines for years and she was always so kind and so sweet, and my husband Joe was her former UPS driver.  Last year was the first year I was retired, and I started last year around Valentine’s Day.  Dipping strawberries was my first job. 

Truffles: Prior to helping out at Sweet Designs? 

Michelle:  I spent the previous 34 years as a 3rd grade teacher in Olmsted Falls and I loved every minute.  I miss the kids and their creativity. I started at St. Mary’s in Olmsted and then at the elementary school in Olmsted.

Truffles:  Your impressions of Sweet Designs? 
Michelle:  I was completely amazed at how much we take for granted when we open up a box of chocolates.  Since I started dipping strawberries last February, I’ve learned so much by working in several different parts of the business. From the kitchen to the packaging to the sheer number of products and the care and quality that goes into every piece of chocolate, it’s been an education. 

Truffles: How about your interaction with customers? 

Michelle: Busy as it was during the holidays, it was a pleasure.  I loved hearing the customers talk about how much they love Ines, and the chocolates Sweet Designs creates.  Each day I’d hear 4 or 5 people talk about how much they enjoy our chocolates and how many years they’ve been coming to Sweet Designs. They also mention the pride Ines and the team have in what they create.  And it was also fun to hear about the great distances people have come to get their chocolates. 

Truffles: Your favorite chocolate? 

Michelle: It used to be chocolate-covered pretzels.  But like BJ and Nancy, sea salt caramels have become my favorite. 

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