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Featured Stakeholder Series with The Chocolate Twist and The Minnesota Children's Museum of Rochester
What is your favorite thing about Rochester?
Our biggest asset in Rochester is its people! So naturally, our favorite thing about Rochester is the collaborative power of people that build our community. Even in the last 10-20 years, we have seen a myriad of collective efforts of people and organizations rolling up their sleeves to help make Rochester more vibrant, connected, and inclusive. Which is why, through shared missions of empowering youth and connecting through experiential learning, The Chocolate Twist and Pop Up Play from Minnesota Children’s Museum Rochester are adding value and vibrancy into the downtown.
Why did you start the company? What inspired you?
CT: We started The Chocolate Twist with two main goals in mind: generate income for Boys & Girls Club of Rochester, and offer jobs and job training opportunities to youth. All profits made at The Chocolate Twist go to support programing at Boys & Girls Club so we can better serve more kids. Youth that works at The Chocolate Twist will learn through curriculum-based programs, and through mentorship, from bookkeeping, to marketing, and customer service skills. As the idea matured we realized we also had the opportunity to create a space where we could bring people together. A place where people do not feel rushed, where they could stay and interact with one another, thus strengthening the sense of community.
HM: While working on other projects with BCGR, we started to talk through The Chocolate Twist concept and ideated on how best to create that interactive environment. Since museums are experts at creating experiences for people to connect and learn (about each other and/or topics), it was a perfect collaboration! This aligns with our strategic growth plans to create pop up experiences outside of the 4 walls of our museum to help broaden the perceptions of what a museum, and its experiences, can offer the community!
What has been your most memorable moment(s) since going into business?
HM: We set out to create a space that would foster intergenerational connectedness between ice cream and interactive games. And…oh my! The connection of strangers has really taken off! We saw the power of this demonstrated when two women (a generation or two senior) playing chess (and of course, eating ice cream) where joined by two younger boys, who were there with their parents. They started playing together! Strangers, joined by ice cream and the power of play.
CT: The second moment would be seeing our teen workers’ excitement! Their innovative ideas and the camaraderie between new Boys & Girls Club kids, and old Club kids, has made all this work worth it! We received an email from one of our teens’ school: they wanted us to know they had not seen this kid that excited and animated in a long time. This proves that when teens are empowered…their light even surprises themselves!
Why is it important to you to be operating from downtown Rochester? Why did you/do you want to be downtown?
As Rochester has evolved over these last 10-20 years, it has not lost its authenticity of being a great place to raise a family. Now, as our downtown continues to grow into an even stronger, aspirational urban core, we know that we need to step in to help build our downtown with that authenticity in mind and in partnership with our youth, so they contribute to lead and shape our Rochester in the future. We know youth and families are a key ingredient to achieving such downtown vibrancy and we are excited to bring such experiences to add that sense of community into the downtown. Through our members, youth, and families, we know that downtown is not a common place for community members to go.
We are excited to expose downtown to new people and bridge such perceptions. Is there something in your store that would surprise most people?
CT: One of the things we hear the most is how big and bright the space is, the number of flavors, and the giant games and how it feels welcoming to just pick up a chess game with a stranger, or join a game of giant twister! Is there a fan favorite, popular item, or brand that people can’t just seem to get enough of? CT: The “This is Serious” ice cream, a wonderful concoction of caramel, chocolate chunks, cashews, and peanuts. People can’t seem to get enough of it!! And the Red Magis Spun chair. We see people show a bout of doubt when first rocking backward in the chair and then break into a confident smile with their first rotation and then into uncontrollable giggles as they pick up speed. We have seen people of all ages sit on it and the reaction is always the same!