BY MICHAELA MARX WHEATLEY
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
Life has been getting sweeter for those outside Langley’s city limits.
Sweet Mona’s, a gourmet chocolate shop in Langley, is now selling its fine truffles and chocolates in a number of stores and shops on Whidbey Island, including Whidbey General Hospital’s gift shop, Payless Food Store, the Goose Community Grocer, the Clinton Food Mart, the Greenbank Store and elsewhere.
For more than six years, Mona Newbauer and her husband Tony have sold chocolates to customers in their downtown Langley shop, as well as online. And they will continue to do so, but they now also have an eye on the rest of the chocolate-eating population of the island and beyond.
Expanding its reach has led to quite a bit of bustle around the store and in the kitchen, as Newbauer’s staff busily creates batches of delicious chocolates.
The shop has consistently kept Mona Newbauer busy, so why expand now? Chocolate is her passion, she said, but it’s a business, as well.
“You have to sell a lot of chocolate to cover the cost and make a profit,” she said.
Newbauer noted that her location in Langley is great and, in addition to selling to tourists, she has a wonderfully loyal group of local customers. However, to create a successful business that supports her family and her staff, she needed to broaden her customer base.
Around the time that the Newbauers sat down to evaluate how to reach their goal of broadening their customer base, a sudden life change provided an opportunity. Tony was laid off from his off-island job and became available to focus on outside sales for the business.
“This may have been the best thing to ever happen to the shop,” Mona said.
Newbauer said she loves interacting with her customers and making the chocolates, but diving into outside sales wasn’t something she ever felt very comfortable with. Tony is a natural at sales, she said. He added the new sales outlets to the roster in just one week.
“It’s simple,” he said. “Mona never liked going to trick-or-treat or going to an Easter egg hunt. I loved going to trick-or-treat and Easter egg hunting. Sales are the same thing.”
Another shift in focus was required for Internet sales, which have become trickier due to a changing climate and freakish weather occurrences. When shipping a temperature-sensitive product like chocolate, conditions count. In the past, Sweet Mona’s had an easier time getting an order safely to a location, as long as the temperature was below 80 degrees. But the weather around the country, and the world, has become increasingly temperamental in recent years, the Newbauers noted.
“People can say whatever they want about global warming,” Tony said, “but shipping has become more difficult when you ship to areas that usually are 65 degrees, but suddenly the temperatures are in the 70s or 80s.”
Shipping conundrums aside, and with Tony providing his mad skills, Mona Newbauer is finally able to concentrate on the thing she does best.
“I focused down about two years ago, when I thought I might lose the business,” she said, referring to her decision to end the breakfast service and bakery items that were stealing her focus.
Newbauer’s passion for chocolate and her ability to create delicious, enticing recipes has made the graduate of Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver, BC, an award-winning truffle-maker and a master chocolatier, who also delights her customers with her popular sea salt caramel treats.
As she continues to explore new recipes and product ideas, Newbauer’s little shop on Second Street in Langley has come a long way from its humble beginnings of selling those first handmade truffles at local farmers’ markets to a bustling cafe that continues to expand and extend its delicious treats to the wider world.
The passionate chocolatier and her super sales guy will continue to shape the company’s expansion, while hoping to find a place in hotels and inns, and in a larger number of stores and boutiques.
“Our goal is to continue our quest to sweeten the world,” Tony said.
Sweet Mona’s extensive line of chocolates includes handmade truffles, caramels, toffees and brittles, fudge, pecan clusters, and its signature seafoam, as well as espressos, lattes, Italian sodas and gelato.
For more information about Sweet Mona’s, call 360-221-2728 or go to www.sweetmonas.com. Or check out the shop at 138 Second Street, Langley.
At top, Mona and Tony Newbauer are busy keeping up with outside sales at their shop in Langley.
Michaela Marx Wheatley is a freelance journalist who has worked as a reporter/writer in the U.S. and her native Germany. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.