December 1, 2010

Barbara and Jim Phillips outside their Ohio chocolate shop

A visit to Dr. Jim Phillips office reveals that he is a man with two passions. One of them is his position as head of the Office of Diversity at BCM. He enthusiastically talks about efforts to increase minority enrollment here and minority representation in medicine through initiatives such as the Saturday Morning Science Program and the DeBakey High School for Health Professions.

His other passion is oh, so sweet. Phillips and his wife, Barbara, are the owners of a chocolate shop in Northeast Ohio. He talks about this endeavor just as enthusiastically as he does his "day job."

The couple have owned Brandt's Candies in Willoughby, Ohio, for five years. The shop, run by the Phillips' daughters, is known for its hand-dipped chocolates.

The shop has been a fixture in the town north of Cleveland on Lake Erie for almost 50 years. Phillips' daughter called one day to tell him and Barbara that the shop was for sale. An idea took hold, and they decided to buy it.

They have learned a lot about the chocolate business, much of it from the shop's previous owners, and have used the same recipe book passed down from Brandt's original owners. Phillips explains how the chocolate-dipping process works, stopping to call his daughter about the more technical terms, like tempering – the process that allows solid chocolate to keep its shine and texture.

"It's been fun, especially since it is a family business," Phillips said. He makes trips to Willoughby throughout the year, and his wife visits monthly.

The Phillips have done some things to make the shop their own. They host open houses for friends and members of the community to stop by and they also open the store to tours for schools and other local groups. They have also introduced molded chocolates that are popular in the area, like guitars because of the proximity to Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Cleveland Browns emblem.

Phillips has been at Baylor for 17 years. A native of western Pennsylvania, Phillips and his wife eventually plan to retire to Willoughby and their chocolate store. Learn more about Brandt's Candies online at www.brandtscandies.com.