Baxley’s Chocolates began in the life work of Russell Baxley, a food scientist whose career focused on developing new food products, especially incorporating peanuts. From the late 1960’s until his retirement in 1989, his consulting services included working with chocolate makers in the US, England, the Netherlands and Japan. Russell loved the chocolate making so much he began making confections at home over the holidays and a new family tradition was born. Russell’s son, Steve enjoyed developing the recipes with his father on visits home from his work at Western Carolina University. The recipes for Sugar Plums and Peanut Butter Meltaways came from their experimentation. With the encouragement of friends, Steve and his family decided to sell their creations at the University’s annual Christmas Bazaar. For seven years, Steve, with the help of his wife, Beth, and daughter, Lauren, sold their handmade chocolates at their Three Bears Chocolates booth.
Their chocolates were so well received that Russell and Steve began exploring chocolate making full time but eventually decided that a retail shop was not practical at that time. Steve continued his work at the university and Beth at the local hospital. Lauren earned her business degree and was off to start her career. Over the next 25 years Steve and Beth created traditional chocolate confections in their kitchen as gifts for family and friends.
Starting the Business
Five years ago Lauren returned to the mountains and started taking the Thanksgiving holidays to make chocolate confections with her father, in order to learn and carry on the family tradition. Russell and Steve’s dream of opening a shop was reborn as Steve and Lauren worked together. With the help of Southwestern Community College’s Small Business Center, Steve and Lauren began laying the foundation for a retail store. After retiring, Steve completed Ecole Chocolat’s Professional Chocolatier and Business Planning programs and in October 2015 they were able to open their retail store in Sylva, North Carolina. In March 2018 they were able to expand their shop to its current location at historic 546 West Main Street. This move allowed them to have the open kitchen they dreamed of in their original business plan. Most days you can come watch as chocolate is enrobed and centers like our famous caramel is poured, making the small-batch handcrafted confections available in our sunny and open retail space.
Russell and Steve’s first recipes were for Peanut Butter Meltaways and Sugar Plums, confections Baxleys’ Chocolates still produce. Over the years they developed their other signature items including Malted Milk Balls, Toffees and Caramels. With each new item, Steve, Beth and Lauren continue to be committed to offering chocolate confections made by hand, in small batches with the finest ingredients.