DUNEDIN — Downtown Dunedin now boasts its own version of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, aptly named Dipped & Sprinkled Chocolate Café, featuring distinctively created sweet treats handcrafted from Belgian chocolates, at 350 Main St. and the Pinellas Trail.
Recent New Jersey transplants Joe and Layla Bundrick relocated to Dunedin to live their dream of opening a chocolate café, where Layla could express her imaginative muse by producing handmade Belgian chocolate treats.
The sweet story about how they were introduced by friends on Facebook, and fell in love during their first date on New Year’s Eve in 2013, is reminiscent of a movie script.
Joe, a former banking executive from Bergen County, New Jersey, and Layla, a baker, candy maker and children’s theater producer, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, but living in The Garden State, instantly fell in love and were married a year later.
After a few years in New Jersey they decided it was time to take their dream south to Florida, but they never imagined it would be to Tampa Bay.
“We wanted to sell chocolates in paradise,” Joe explained.
They decided to look for the perfect spot in Florida, but initially considered settling in the Boca Raton area on Florida’s east coast.
However, “we visited Dunedin and fell in love at first sight,” said Layla, whose parents named her after the Eric Clapton song by the same name.
They loved the look of downtown and friendliness of everyone they met in Dunedin. Next, while it’s difficult to find vacant shops downtown, they were lucky to find a perfect available storefront location, just north of Main Street on the Pinellas Trail. They opened Dipped & Sprinkled Chocolate Café on Nov. 17.
Joe said they have the perfect location because their cafe is not only visible to passersby on Main Street, just around the corner from Café Alfresco, but also to hundreds of runners, walkers, and bicyclists using the Pinellas Trail. In addition, everyone who parks in the Monroe Street garage, or at the city parking lot north of Main Street, and walks the trail to get downtown passes their chocolate café.
They also like the fact that their shop faces a majestic Live Oak that in 1920 was saved from the saw mill by Women’s Club of Dunedin members, who perched on the limbs of the tree to protect it. The tree with its commemorative plaque has become a photo spot along the trail.
Someday they hope to feature an outdoor seating area in front of their café.
Operating a chocolate café is much less stressful than his former banking career, he noted, “because people are always happy when buying chocolate. You also get to meet people from all over.”
Layla is the chocolateir who creates all the Belgian chocolate treats by hand, including 40 different types of dark and milk chocolate truffles with enticing names like tiramisu truffles, sea salt caramel truffles, champagne truffles, amaretto, hazelnut, key lime, banana, black forest, raspberry, rum, Irish cream truffles and of course the Dunedin orange truffle.
Their showcases are filled with every imaginable treat designed in chocolate, such as marshmallow pops, cake pops, dozens of chocolate turtle treats, chocolate covered pretzels, and chocolate covered strawberries.
Layla said she always loved baking and making chocolate treats, starting from when she was growing up in Cincinnati. She added her Buckeye candies, made from a down-home recipe, are a huge seller with visitors who come from Ohio and remember the sweet taste of the savory morsel.
“We are always running out of them,” she added, showing the empty tray.
Layla said she also loves to invent imaginative specialty candies and desserts for parties and special occasions. Give her the theme and she will design the perfect chocolate treat to match the occasion, such as King Cake pops for Mardi Gras, football looking chocolate covered strawberries for Superbowl parties, Pot O’ Gold Rainbow Cake Pops for St. Patrick’s Day, bride and groom chocolate pretzel pops, iced vanilla emoji-shaped party cookies and a variety of s’mores.
The couple said one in-store special event that has really caught on is their chocolate painting parties. As part of the festivities aspiring culinary artists and chocolate lovers create bedeck chocolate figurines, shaped as purses, shoes, wine glasses, bunnies and other items, with colorful edible paints.
Joe notes, surprising enough, many people like to start their day with a good chocolate. The cafe also features their own drink menu, which includes a variety of lattes, coffees and steamers with specialty flavors.
“We are a chocolate shop with a retro feel and modern-day twist,” she said.
Few people realize the chocolate café features wine and many are surprised that a chocolate café also offers a wide variety of vegan, gluten free and sugar free treats.
“That’s why we are a chocolate café,” she said.
Joe noted contrary to what some people think chocolate candies don’t melt quickly, because chocolate melts when the temperature is 95 degrees or higher, so it lasts longer than ice cream in the summer heat. Shoppers don’t have to worry about buying chocolates and taking them home in the summer heat.
Chocolate aficionados can book a chocolate event or ask for a custom order on the café’s website www.dippedandsprinkled.com or on the shops Facebook page.