The Chocolate Bear changes hands

By Vicki Hyatt | Jan 08, 2014
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Jenny McCall, new owner of The Chocolate Bear, assists customers Mary Kate Hodor and Mark Bradley of Waynesville. Bradley immediately recognized McCall as his former English teacher.

A popular chocolate shop in downtown Waynesville changed hands Monday,

In keeping with a recent trend at The Chocolate Bear, Judi Ferris sold the business to an employee, the same thing that happened when she went from employee to owner about two years ago.

“I love the store, I love my customers and I will miss them,” she said, “but I just got too busy. My life just got out of balance.”

The new owner, Jenny McCall, had worked at The Chocolate Bear for the past five years, and jumped at the chance to buy the business when Ferris said she needed to restructure her life.

“I’ve absolutely loved being here — the energy of the shop,” McCall said. “There’s never been a day I’ve come into the shop and felt like I was at work.”

McCall, who is a sixth-grade English teacher at Waynesville Middle School, will work at the shop during the weekends and the staff of five full- and part-time employees will handle the middle of the week hours.

“Judi left the store in great working order, so I’ll just step in and take over the shop,” said McCall, who only has small changes in mind to tweak operations a bit.

Ferris said she will be using her freed-up time to visit family, which lives out of town, do more volunteer work for her church, United Methodist Church in Maggie Valley, and work on a new project involving selling antiques.

“I had a retail business specializing in antiques in Illinois for 14 years,” she said, “and I wanted to do smething similar here, but couldn’t find a storefront I wanted.”

That’s when she started working at the Chocolate Bear, and when the former owners decided they were too busy, she said she took a leap of faith and purchased the store.

“The good Lord blessed me with a good business,” she said. “When I bought the store, I told myself it wasn’t all about me. I wanted to be able to help other people through The Chocolate Bear, and I’ve been able to do that.”

Ferris has been at the forefront of the Million Coin Campaign: Cash Conquers Cold and not only has kept a coin container at her store, but mobilized her church to undertake a coin campaign as well. That effort resulted in a contribution of about six gallons of coins.

In addition, Ferris helped organize the Shepherd’s Table, a church effort that feeds about 70 people each Monday night in Maggie Valley. Through this effort, as well as encounters she has had through her business, she has found out about people in need and helped as she could.

“I’m not a wealthy person by any means, but I like to help other people. It makes me feel good,” she said.

Ferris said the business has grown in the past two years, in part because of the improved economy, an increased inventory and through increased advertising.

“We have been very fortunate to have a lot more people coming to town, and The Chocolate Bear has a lot of repeat business. I want to thank all my wonderful, loyal customers.”

As for McCall, one of the busiest months of the year, Valentine’s Day, is approaching. The store has long specialized in just the right gift idea for the special day, and this year will be no exception.

Preparing for the big season is as enjoyable as it gets at the chocolate shop, McCall said.

“What isn’t fun about going through catalogues of chocolate?” she asked.

During January only, The Chocolate Bear will only be open on weekends. Regular hours at the store at 170 N. Main St. in Waynesville will resume in February.