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September 28, 2023

Heritage Chocolates Corralitos a local, family affair

More than 50 years ago, clockmaker and shop owner Allison Rider discovered a new hobby: making chocolate candies for his friends, family and employees.

Rider, a big chocolate lover, started creating treats loosely based on See’s Candies flavors. He experimented with caramel and other soft-center candies, eventually passing his knowledge on to other family members.

This included his daughter Ali Dwyer, who now owns and operates Heritage Chocolates Corralitos with her husband, Richard Dwyer. After her father passed away in 2016, Ali’s family was inspired to continue his legacy and take things further.

“We started [Heritage] in early 2017,” she said. “We now make around 29 types of chocolate, with some seasonal flavors as well. A lot of recipes are from family … The caramel recipe was from my dad’s family. The soft center recipe came from my mom’s sister-in-law.”

With Valentine’s Day approaching, the Dwyers are busy—they create, pack and distribute all of their creations themselves from inside their Corralitos home. In addition to candies they offer treat bars and barks, and are currently selling Valentine’s-themed packs that include “Love Bites” (made with pistachios, cardamom and dried strawberries) and cherry amaretto chocolates.

“Valentine’s Day is the second biggest holiday for us, right after Christmas,” Ali said. “This is a big one.”

Heritage Chocolates has found success in partnering with local wineries, creating infused chocolates to sell at wineries across the Monterey Bay. They regularly host pop-ups and events at El Vaquero Winery and Nicholson Winery in Corralitos, and this weekend will kick off a new partnership at Byington Vineyard & Winery in Santa Cruz.

“We’ve also done collaborations with Fruition Brewing, infusing their beer into our chocolate,” Dwyer added. “Also … last, and this weekend our candy will be sold at Three Waves Coffee. We use their beans for our coffee chocolates.”

Heritage Chocolates will host a virtual pairing with El Vaquero Winery for Valentine’s Day. —contributed

Working with other businesses, farms and community members is an important aspect of their business, Ali said.

“I love working with the community, local farmers … Eventually, as we can afford it, we want to switch things over to where we can use local products in everything,” she said. “Such as, we use the lemon and blackberry that we’ve grown on our property. And our friends … they recently gave us oranges, which we’ll use for our orange chocolates.”

They are also working with local distributing platform Eatlocal.farm, which offers $5 deliveries of regional products. 

“They’re selling our barks like crazy,” Richard said. “It’s a great partnership.”

In the future, the Dwyers hope to find a commercial kitchen space and some additional help with operations. For now though, they are enjoying the ride.

“My father likes to say, ‘There’s no such thing as bad chocolate, it’s just that some chocolate is better than others,’” Richard said. “We’ve taken that to heart.”

Honoring her own father’s passion for chocolate will always be part of their mission, Ali said. They even chose the name of the company to reflect his clock shop, Allison Heritage Clocks, using the original font he designed in the 1970s for the logo.

“We chose our name to carry on his legacy,” Ali said. “To honor how this all started.”

Heritage Chocolates will host pop-ups this weekend at Stripe in Downtown Santa Cruz and Beer Thirty in Soquel. They will be at Byington Sunday, 12-4pm. Shop online at heritage-chocolates.com and follow the business’ Facebook for regular updates.

Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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