While walking down an aisle of a cake supply store seven years ago, Melissa Barnett purchased a flimsy mold that she still thinks about today. Though she was planning to make a few gifts for some relatives, she immediately envisioned an assortment of different designs she could paint into the molds before filling them with chocolate.
Hours of online research and quite a few batches of chocolates later, Barnett became more serious about making chocolates. Her mother encouraged her to gain some knowledge in person, suggesting she meet up with her cousin — the owner of a chocolate-covered-fortune-cookie shop — while on vacation in Hawaii.
There, she learned more about the process of making chocolates and how to properly ship them. Seeing the production area of a professional chocolatier encouraged Barnett to continue pursuing her newfound passion after returning to Spokane. Eventually, the result was Pixie Dust Chocolates.
In those early days, Barnett knew that before she could potentially open her own business, she would need to buy a tempering machine to melt the chocolate down. As she was discussing this with her husband, he walked out of the room.
"He had seemed so supportive up until that point," says Barnett. "I didn't understand why he had walked away from me until he came back into the room with a receipt for a tempering machine."
In 2009 — the same year Barnett purchased that first hobby mold — she opened Pixie Dust Chocolates. Barnett says that her family and their support are invaluable to her, and have been essential in the creation of Pixie Dust.
Through ongoing online research, Barnett is constantly refining her method for cleaning her molds, painting with cocoa butters, pouring the chocolate in and popping the final products out from the molds. The whole process takes around three hours, depending on the how large a batch she's making.
"My abilities have improved a lot in the last year," says Barnett. "It's rewarding, especially with teaching yourself, because you go through a lot of trial and error and feel defeated."
Barnett is currently expanding Pixie Dust's offerings to include a variety of truffles, featuring her personal favorite — Triple Crème Brie made with real cheese. She creates her flavor combinations by tasting them herself.
"I have no reason to make chocolates I don't think taste good," says Barnett. "And with the shelf life of these chocolates being about three to four weeks before they start to dry out, I wouldn't want to be stuck with a bunch of chocolate that tastes bad."
Huckleberry is Pixie Dust's top seller, though flavors options range from Lavender Tangerine to Sriracha Caramel. A majority of Pixie Dust's products are custom-made, incorporating logos, text and images into molds and designs. Pricing varies because of this. Barnett is most proud of her high heels. Think chocolate Easter bunny, but more glam.
Barnett's father also is an artist, so together they came up with a four-piece truffle selection called "Ode to Art" ($12) where each truffle represents an artist or an artistic style. The set is loosely inspired by Jackson Pollock, Piet Mondrian, Man Ray and abstract art, featuring dark, white, caramel and milk chocolate.
Barnett doesn't plan on opening a shop devoted to her chocolates, but wants to continue selling them wholesale to places around Spokane, such as Rocket Market and Candy Works in the NorthTown Mall. She is excited to continue experimenting and building on her skills, hoping soon to offer an assortment that showcases local fruits and one that pairs with wines.
"I want to stick with wholesale because it keeps me in my kitchen," says Barnett. "and that's exactly where I want to be." ♦
Pixie Dust Chocolates • pixiedustchocolates.com • 220-7554