Chocolates and pies and cakes, oh my! Knuckles Truffles has it all, in mouth-watering flavours and beautifully presented edible art.
Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, Edward Knuckles moved to Toronto in 1976 to sing with the Toronto Opera Company Chorus and later maintaining and constructing costumes, where he remained until 2011. So how did he end up in Sackville as a chocolatier? A couple of his best friends, Stanley McIntyre and Ross Jenkins, were planning to retire to Sackville so he took the time off and drove down to investigate his possible retirement home.
“Sackville,” says Edward, “had everything I was looking for in my pending retirement – a university, music, culture, good housing prices – so I decided to stay.”
He then retired for about eight months before making the decision to start his chocolate business.
At the time, Stan had a house with two kitchens, so he offered one for Edward to test his chocolate-making skills. Edward then started out with some samples, which he offered to all the neighbours. He then followed up by asking the neighbours for their reaction to the chocolates – and they were all 100 per cent positive. From those humble beginnings, Edward began selling his products at the local Farmers Market and at the Craft Gallery. By now, his two-year business plan had been met in one year.
Knuckles Truffles was opened in its present location in January 2013 and Edward has seen his business steadily and consistently increase. Now in his sixth year, he also goes to the Moncton Market every Saturday in addition to continuing to attend the Sackville Farmers Market.
“My chocolate is made from Belgian chocolate, says Edward. I try to use as many natural and local ingredients as possible, but it is not always easy to source more specialty items.”
He enjoys travelling and many of his flavours are adapted from tastes from his travels. Over the last few years, he has added cakes and pies to his shop.
He says, “I found that Laurie Smith makes beautifully decorated cakes, so we now work together to develop recipes and present these cakes.”
A young student, Isabel Sears-Surface, creates pies.
Edward has a love for teaching the chocolate-making trade and has had several apprentices over the years. At present, he is teaching Connor Nichols and Kim Walsh the tools of the trade.
“I try to place new staff where they will work the best, says Edward, but every new employee learns the art of making chocolate. It’s teaching them a craft. It’s getting people working and giving them a sense of worth.”
What are the secrets to success in this business? As with any food-related business, Edward says “the customer will decide.” His lesson is: “To put out a good product, you have to do product testing. Be prepared to lose money during the first two years and be confident in what you’re doing.”
Aside from the challenges in the food industry and in small business, what other challenges does Edward face? “I think the biggest challenge is to get people through your door, says Edward. This is a challenge for any small business downtown.”
He says there is a steady stream of local customers but “there is always that competition from the bigger centres and the big box stores.”
With his business going well, Edward is actively looking for a bigger location where he can expand.
“I want to stay in the downtown, so the search is more difficult,” he says.
One of his options is to look for a production space for his chocolates and keep his present space, which would be used for retail and baking. He would like to offer yeast cinnamon rolls in the coming months.
In the food industry, he says, food inspectors are a necessary evil.
“I welcome them because in the end it means that the quality of my products is ensured. If the quality isn’t there, I’m out of business.”
Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas are the busiest times of year for Edward. He tries to keep over 30 flavours of chocolates in stock but will have at least 18 at all times. Butter tarts, chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies are also favourites. Summers are good – Edward says many people take his chocolates as a house gift when they are travelling – and his chocolates have travelled all over the world. He also makes ice cream in the summer. Gluten free products are available.
Edward says Sackville is a great place and he has a good relationship with other businesses downtown.
“The businesses are willing to help each other out and frequently send customers to each others’ stores for items they’re looking for,” he says.
He admits doing business on your own isn’t as easy as you might think it would be and says “everything falls on my shoulders” but he has the luxury of setting his own hours. Looking at what’s offered at Knuckles Truffles, you can tell it’s a business he loves and he doesn’t plan to retire any time soon.
Knuckles Truffles Chocolates is located at 26A York Street in Sackville. You can reach Edward at 506-536-4861 or find him on Facebook to see many of the delicious treats available. Hours are: closed Monday (but open on Mondays beginning in May, for the summer); Tuesday – Friday 11a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and closed on Sunday. You can also find Knuckles Truffles at the Sackville Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m.–noon and the Moncton Market on Saturday from 7a.m.-2 p.m.