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By Devin Rose
Donna Slepicka is on a mission to make the lives of River Foresters a little bit sweeter, and, so far, it seems like her new shop is doing just that.
Slepicka opened the village's newest business, River Forest Chocolates, on March 31 and she said customers are keeping her busy. She makes her own molded chocolates and will eventually have about 25 different flavors of truffles, caramels, creams and toffee.
She also makes specialty confections, such as S'mores — marshmallow pops between chocolate mint graham crackers. All her goodies are made with fresh ingredients and no preservatives, she said.
"I think I offer really fine, handcrafted chocolates with the best of ingredients," she said. She's been cooking and baking her whole life and also worked as a substitute teacher for River Forest School District 90.
Slepicka said her 19-year-old daughter, Lia, provided the encouragement she needed to go back to school in the last couple years. When her daughter was getting ready to go to college, her mom did the same at Triton College. She originally planned to study artisan breads.
But instead, "I just fell in love with chocolate," Slepicka said. She studied the art under chocolatier Uzma Shariff.
For the last year, she's been working out of a commercial kitchen she rented in Melrose Park. But as the number of booked events continued to grow, so did the need for a bigger space. The amount of equipment to transport from her Franklin Avenue home to the kitchen didn't help either.
She wrote up a business plan to make sure the numbers worked out, and a space opened up at 7577 Lake St. The building's open floor plan allows customers to see the chocolate being made.
When she's a little more settled, Slepicka said she'd like to offer truffle-making classes. She's taken a lot of them in Chicago and wants to show home cooks that they really can make their own treats. She's also planning to give 20 percent of her sales to charity.
For information about River Forest Chocolates, visit the website at www.riverforestchocolates.com or call 708-203-9337.