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Finding Minnesota: The Candy In Kandiyohi County

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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WILLMAR, Minn. (WCCO) — As we travel around Minnesota, it’s nice to find some sweet little surprises.

For example, you could say Mr. B Chocolates in Willmar puts the “candy” in Kandiyohi County.

The family-run chocolate shop produces European-style delicacies using chocolate from Belgium, cocoa butter and flavorings from Switzerland, berries from Italy, marzipan from Germany, vanilla beans from Madagascar and dairy cream from Minnesota.

“We have about 40 to 50 different kinds of chocolate,” company founder Dwight Barnes said, “and most of the recipes are from Belgium. They seem to know how to use the best cocoa beans and they grind it real fine.”

Their chocolates are sold in the front area of the modest shop, which is attached to a liquor store. Several of Barnes’ family members are involved with the business, including his daughter, Mary Reishus, who’s the manager.

“A lot of people that come out from the Cities, they go ‘why are you in Willmar making chocolates?’” she said. “And it’s where we live so that’s why we started the business here.”

Barnes is affectionately known as “Mr. B.” Back when he traveled the world as a professional photographer, he learned chocolate-making from an expert in Belgium.

“So, I came back to Willmar,” he said, “and people really liked it. Tried it on my children and they liked it.”

Barnes, 84, ran the business for nearly 30 years, until he decided to retire a few years ago. He still helps out during the busy times of the year, but the business is now owned by his oldest daughter, Kathy, and her husband, Steve Hanson.

Hanson said he wanted it to keep his own supply of truffles coming.

“It’s easy to see, if you take a look at me that I like my chocolate,” he said.

They now ship their chocolates around the country, but it’s the people of Kandiyohi County who get them at their freshest.

“You never get a crabby customer, said Reishus. “They’re always happy when they come in to get chocolate.”

If you have a Finding Minnesota idea, let us know here.

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