The first Connecticut franchise location of Kilwins is now open at 38 Isham Road in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square.
By Ronni Newton
Years ago Kathleen Allen got some ice cream at Kilwins in Vero Beach, Florida – sea salt caramel – and she said she was “sold” on the flavor, and the quality, and the chocolates and other confections available at what she thought at the time was a local mom and pop store.
Now she’s as excited as a kid in a candy store – and owner of her own candy and ice cream store. Allen, and her husband, Jay, purchased a Kilwins franchise, and the West Hartford location, which is the company’s first in the state, officially opens Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 38 Isham Road – transforming one of the corners of the courtyard in Blue Back Square. Both Allens grew up in Bristol, and had been living in Maryland but are excited for this opportunity to return to Central Connecticut and open a business they are passionate about.
While sea salt caramel is Allen’s favorite flavor ice cream and chocolate, she said the milk chocolate and dark chocolate “Tuttle” – a mix of nuts, chocolate and caramel – is traditionally a best seller at Kilwins. The staff – 10 have been hired so far – is already particular to the peanut butter fudge.
“We are a confectioner first,” Allen said when asked to describe Kilwins. “What’s unique about Kilwins is that we make our own chocolate,” she said, at the Kilwins Kitchen in Petoskey, Michigan from cacao imported directly from fair trade businesses in South Africa. The company was founded in 1947, and now operates in 26 states.
Based on the data from the 170 Kilwins locations throughout the country, Allen anticipates roughly a third of sales will come from chocolates and fudge, a third will come from items made in the store, and a third will be from ice cream. The chocolate, however, is a key ingredient in both of the other two categories.
The signature “Mackinac Island Fudge” is an original recipe developed by the company’s founders, Don and Katy Kilwin.
“Experience” items – which are made in the store – include Granny Smith apples dipped in Kilwins freshly-made caramel, Brittle made in a copper kettle, caramel popcorn, and several varieties of chocolate-dipped pretzels.
The ice creams are made with Kilwins’ original recipes and their other “treats” are used as toppings. Each Kilwins location gets to choose a signature local flavor, and We-Ha.com is very excited to share that the West Hartford flavor is called We-Ha Mud. It’s described as a “velvety vanilla flavored ice cream with an explosion of chocolate chips, swirled with rich caramel.” Drooling yet?
“Waffle cones are a big deal,” Allen said. They’re made in the store, and the smell wafts through the air outside, too.
There are 24 flavors of ice cream in the West Hartford location at any one time, and some will rotate out seasonally. For the late winter season, Turtle ice cream is one of the seasonal flavors, but she said it will also depend on what the top sellers end being.
For those who are dairy-free, both raspberry and lemon sorbetto are available.
The ice cream is made in a Kosher certified facility, Allen said, and is available in unopened tubs as well as in waffle cones, waffle cups, cake cones, and regular cups.
The Heritage Chocolate is all Kosher, Allen said, and the dark chocolates are dairy free.
Hours at Kilwins will initially be 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Allen said she anticipates staying open an hour later once the warmer weather arrives for good.
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