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From choppers to chocolate for former Apache helicopter pilots

GREAT BARRINGTON — A military couple is channeling their sweet side.
For Steven and Trent Kinney, their story began while they were stationed together in Afghanistan.

The couple have used their attention for detail and leadership as captains in the 10th Mountain Division of U.S. Army piloting Apache helicopters and leading teams, but are now taking that drive to the business level in the Berkshires.

The couple’s business venture started with an online business three years ago, named “Berkshire Treats.” The business sold gift baskets comprised of items from Berkshire vendors from their home, selecting local vendors such as Bola Granola, Chocolate Springs and Catherine’s Chocolates.

But the Kinneys knew they wanted to do more.

Having recently been married in Lenox in 2017, Steven, a native of the Berkshires and Trent, of Minnesota, will be channeling their softer side by selling and producing local chocolate in Great Barrington after purchasing Catherine’s Chocolates on April 12. Steven declined to disclose additional details of the sale.

The Kinneys wanted to own a business for a long time, Steven said.

Kathy Sinico, former owner of the Catherine’s Chocolates, is getting ready to retire after 40 years of hand-crafting artisan chocolates at the same location at 264 Stockbridge Road.

Decorated chocolate covered fruits, jellies, pretzels and creams, line the walls and counter tops, and Steven said that he isn’t looking to change too much. Rather, the couple wants to build off of Sinico’s already-proven chocolate concoctions.

“All of Kathy’s products are not going away,” Steven said. “There won’t be any decrease in quantity or selection of chocolates, if anything we will just be adding more to her ideas.”

Steven recently completed eight years as an Apache pilot with the U.S. Army, serving on a variety of bases and will be managing the chocolate shop until Trent, who is still on active duty in Poland, returns in the fall.

The Kinneys are looking forward to working with the community, Steven said, and keeping Kathy’s traditions the same.

Two years ago, Steven recalled when Sinico told the couple she was looking to start selling her business and consider retirement. Back then, the time wasn’t just right for the Kinneys to take the entrepreneurial leap. They were both still on active duty, but decided that if the store was still up for sale when they were out of the military, they would try and buy it, Steven said.

The Kinneys have always wanted to have a business of their own — something more than selling gift baskets from their home, said Steven.

Although Catherine’s Chocolates currently has a small online component, the chocolate store’s sales is primarily achieved through its brick-and-mortar location and Steven is looking to keep it that way.

When Trent returns in the fall, he will find a new name change to Catherine’s Chocolates, under the moniker “Meilke Confections.” The name, Steven says, is a play-on of Trent’s surname. The date of name-change, however, has not been determined.

Something Catherine’s Chocolates has stashed in the cases are 300 chocolate molds alongside dozens of chocolate candies. Currently, Steven is learning how to make the treats on his own by way of Sinico’s mentorship as she gets ready to hand off her career in chocolatiering.

The molds, a process of making chocolate pieces by melting chocolate inside a rigid plastic frame, is used for creating pieces such as a chocolate Easter Bunny or a chocolate heart.

Once the chocolate cools around the frame, the plastic is released, and the chocolate is ready to eat.

These chocolate molds create a sleek and smooth finish once they’re finished. The chocolate molds are a staple product for Catherine’s Chocolates and for holiday events, especially around Valentine’s Day, said Steven.

At the store, one could find a milk chocolate 1990s computer screen mold on the counter that was created in honor of Secretary’s Day or a Sudoku puzzle, said Steven. The business also created a mold for Mother’s Day last year: a heart-shaped lollipop.

Right now, Sinico can still be found on-site at the shop, checking to make sure each chocolate is in its molded confection.

She will still be living next door, Steven added, if the Kinneys need input or assistance as they get started.

In the future, the Kinneys have hopes of expanding their chocolate enterprise and sell their sweet treats throughout Berkshire County, keeping the former Catherine’s Chocolates as the production base for chocolate and molds. The Stockbridge Road location will be used as the main retail store. Other areas the couple hope to open up retail shops include Lenox and Stockbridge.

Something Steven also wants to add to the artisan shop is an ice cream bar — and it won’t only offer chocolate ice cream — with an array of toppings for customers to add themselves.

Catherine’s Chocolate’s is still open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

During the summer, a small U.S. chocolate flag will be given to customers that visit the shop as a welcome gift, and any money donated in exchange for the free chocolate will be given to charities that support the troops, Steven said.

“We are looking forward to it,” he said. “I know that Trent really wants to be here right now.”

For more information about the chocolate shop, visit https://catherineschocolates.net/.