Editor's note: Peterbrooke Chocolatier, a Florida-based confectioner, plans a grand opening celebration for its newest specialty retail shop in Downtown Tampa on Oct. 23rd and 24th. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor plans to attend a ceremonial ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 23. As part of its grand opening celebration between noon and 5 p.m. both days, Peterbrooke will offer guests a free packaged 6-oz chocolate covered popcorn, one of the brand’s signature items. Guests also can taste gelatos and sample other chocolate treats. The shop may limit the number of guests inside the shop at any given time due to social distancing and COVID-19 guidelines. Here is our story published Sept. 1:
Craving decadent chocolates, handmade caramels, chocolate-covered everything? A Peterbrooke Chocolatier shop is about to open its doors in downtown Tampa, where just about anything chocolate you can think of will be made in front of your eyes.
She didn't know it at the time, but the journey of the Peterbrooke Tampa began in the 1990s when Jennifer Hill first tasted European-style Peterbrooke chocolates.
"My [Duval County] students would always bring me Peterbrooke chocolates for Christmas because they knew it was my weak spot," says Jennifer Hill, former teacher, and now-owner of Tampa's Peterbrooke Chocolatier. From there, she fell in love with and started following the brand.
Hill described a quaint shop in Jacksonville’s historic San Marco neighborhood, which was Florida's flagship location. "When my girls were little, we went there on tours," Hill says.
When the San Marco shop first started doing classes, she signed her daughters up for birthday parties. "It was such a wonderful experience," Hill says, thinking back. "I said, 'Wouldn't it be great to own one of these?' "
Fast-forward to relocating to Tampa Bay from Jacksonville in 2013, and Hill began missing the Peterbrooke chocolates. When she attended a business franchising convention at the Tampa Convention Center, she stumbled upon representatives from Peterbrooke.
"I grabbed the guy. 'You need a shop here in Tampa!' " Hill exclaims. To which the rep responded, "You're the one!''
It was kismet.
Now Hill gets to share all of the memorable experiences she had in Jacksonville with downtown Tampa dwellers and visitors.
It was immediately noticeable when speaking with Hill and her daughters that this process has been a labor of love. All of the blood, sweat, and tears that they've put into bringing Peterbrooke to Tampa is about to be realized.
What's better than chocolate and family? Tampa's Peterbrooke has embraced both worlds -- it's owned and operated by a husband and wife duo, Ryan and Jennifer Hill. Jennifer and their daughters Drew and Sydney manage day-to-day operations. Drew, a USF marketing grad, handles the marketing side, and Sydney is the head chocolatier.
Jennifer, on hiatus from teaching at Pinellas County schools, has a business degree that she's putting to work. Most of her career has been spent teaching business classes. Now, she's walking the walk.
While they will have pre-made Peterbrooke products available for purchase, Jennifer and her daughters make most of the chocolate you'll see on-site, and you can even watch them as they make it.
"It's an actual chocolate experience," Hill says. "There's been an outpouring of support and excitement from people in Tampa Bay," says Drew Hill, general manager, and marketing coordinator. "We're making the hype happen."
The Peterbrooke shop has a learning area where patrons can participate in chocolate-making and candy-making classes. They will also offer team-building courses, day camps for kids, private parties, catering, and corporate gifts.
"[My daughters] call me Jenny Wonka because the shop is going to be like the Willy Wonka chocolate factory. … Drew and Sydney are the Oompa Loompas," Hill says with a laugh.
The Hill family has been active brand ambassadors since signing their franchise agreement last fall. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Hills faced setbacks like everyone. But they wanted to give back to the community that has welcomed them with open arms. They've donated Peterbrooke chocolates to nurses, teachers, and law enforcement. "It was our way of saying, 'We know your struggling and we feel your pain,'" says Hill.
"That's how we wanted to introduce ourselves into the Tampa community," adds Drew. "That was the standard we wanted to set. We are establishing ourselves as being that community brand, and we'll continue to give back when opportunities arise as much as we can."
Surrounded by Glazer Children’s Museum, the Tampa Museum of Art, and Curtis Hixson Waterfront Park, the Hill family believes they couldn't have chosen a better spot.
"Foot traffic is going to drive this brand downtown," Hill shares. "It's a community, a vibrant area with thousands of people living and working here. When we first scouted [downtown], I could sit here for an hour, and no less than 50 to a hundred people would walk right by this location."
"All we want to do is make people happy," says Hill.
And make people happy, they will.
A fall grand opening celebration is in the works to include a ribbon-cutting, prizes and taste testing, and more.
For more information, call 813-585-1703, visit the Peterbrooke website, or follow the shop on Facebook or Instagram. Peterbrooke Chocolatier is located in downtown Tampa, at 777 N. Ashley Drive in Skypoint.