Homemade Chocolate and Ice Cream Treats Highlight Thomas Sweet’s Longtime Success
SWEET SUCCESS: “We are proud of our longevity and of being an independently-owned business. There aren’t as many of these as there used to be, and along with our high quality chocolate and ice-cream, this sets us apart. I am also so fortunate to have such a great staff.” Marco Cucchi (center) owner of Thomas Sweet, is shown with his team of ‘Chocolate Elves’ in front of the Chocolate Shop, which is overflowing with an array of tempting Easter treats.
By Jean Stratton
Anticipation and discovery come together when customers enter the Thomas Sweet Chocolate Shop. Filled to the brim with happy choices, it is all ready for Easter.
The windows at the shop beckon. The display of chocolate rabbits of every size and style entice the customer to enter, and once inside, the aroma of freshly made chocolate and the selection of the bunnies, lambs, chicks, eggs, and baskets proves irresistible.
“All the Easter treats are favorites, but the chocolate rabbits in all sizes are the most popular,” says owner Marco Cucchi. “We also have peanut butter eggs, which people always like, and of course, jelly beans. And our chocolate-covered peeps are really in demand. In addition, we have Easter baskets pre-prepared and ready to go, and if customers prefer, we can customize the baskets with their individual choices.”
Opened in 1979 by Thomas Grim and Thomas Block, Thomas Sweet began operation on Nassau Street. The store initially offered homemade chocolate, and later added ice cream. The Chocolate Shop is now located at 29 Palmer Square West, and the ice cream store at 183 Nassau Street.
A third location, The Thomas Sweet Café, opened in the Montgomery Center in 2009, offering ice cream, coffee, and breakfast and lunch choices.
Marco Cucchi became part-owner of Thomas Sweet in 2005, and sole owner in 2008, and his story exemplifies much of what Thomas Sweet has meant to so many in Princeton over the past 43 years. He got his start at the store when he was a teen, and began scooping the popular ice cream.
“I loved Thomas Sweet from the beginning,” he recalls. “I was a scooper back in the “80s when I was in high school. It was a dream of mine that one day I could own something like Thomas Sweet.”
After graduating from business school, he had a 15-year career as a management consultant, and was vice president at Mastercard. “Consulting is a great business,” he points out, “but you travel a lot, and I really wanted to be part of a community and near my family. Thomas Sweet was a wonderful opportunity to be in the community, and it’s a terrific business.”
Continuing the tradition begun by Thomas Grim and Thomas Block, Cucchi emphasizes quality ingredients and freshness. He is very much a hands-on owner, he adds. “I am in the stores. I keep in touch with the customers, and I continue to make the ice cream and chocolate. We also have our own other excellent chocolatiers and ice cream-makers.
“I’ve tried to keep the business consistent with the values it was founded on. We always try to be family-friendly and welcoming. And, again, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of our staff. A lot of our success is due to them. Many have been with us for a long time, and are so loyal. I also enjoy working with our younger staff members, as we continue to offer our special ice cream, chocolate, and all our quality products.”
“Sweet Easter Day”
The Chocolate Shop. which was recently renovated, has been doing exceptionally well lately, he adds. “We have a number of corporate clients, as well as many loyal customers over the years. We not only have second generation now, but actually third generation customers!
“Of course, Easter is the big attraction at the moment, and we have everything for people to enjoy a ‘Sweet’ Easter day.”
In addition, he notes there is a selection of chocolate treats for Passover, including chocolate seder bowls, chocolate matzohs, and chocolate Passover Pops, among others.
The store always offers a full selection of chocolate for every occasion — or no occasion, including the late afternoon “pick-me-up” of even a single piece for ardent chocolate lovers in need! The handmade truffles are the number one seller, adds Cucchi. “We make them from scratch with all natural ingredients, and people love them.”
The famous boxed assortments also remain very popular as gifts, and the selection of fun chocolate novelties has always been a Thomas Sweet specialty.
Whatever your favorites, whether meltaways, caramels, creams, or the popular Thomas Sweet chocolate bars, they are all waiting for you at the shop.
Rich and Scrumptious
While chocolate is the Easter focus, Thomas Sweet ice cream may also be on the menu. Thomas Sweet carries the art of ice cream-making to undreamed of heights! Creamy, rich, and scrumptious, it is delectable to the last scoopful, as long lines of customers will attest.
“Everyone loves ice cream,” points out Cucchi, “and all our flavors are popular, including the famous blend-ins. We continue to add new flavors too, and some favorite new ones are ‘Jersey Shore:’ vanilla with salted caramel, and ‘Midnight Chocolate:’ chocolate, chocolate caramel, and brownie. We also have a new Nutella flavor, and coconut is also popular for Easter.”
The Café has become a favorite place too, he reports, and with its breakfast and lunch choices (including sandwiches, wraps, muffins, etc.), it is busy all day long. It has become a real gathering place for the community, and for customers of all ages.
“We get kids after school and following games and sports events, and adults before and after the movies. As always, ice cream is a big seller, and so is our coffee. We roast our own coffee. It is handmade and handcrafted with the freshest and best ingredients.”
Cucchi strongly believes in being a part of the community, and this is reflected in a number of ways, in a variety of programs, and charitable donations.
“This is important to us,” he emphasizes. “We want to take part in the community, and give back to the community.”
Gift cards are available at Thomas Sweet (always welcome for Mom on Mother’s Day or for a new graduate!), and customers can also participate in a rewards program in which they accrue points with a purchase, and when a certain number is reached, they can be redeemed toward a future purchase.
“I love this work,” says Marco Cucchi. “I’ve never been happier in my career. Of course, there are always challenges, but that is part of business. And, after a few more years, we will mark 50 years in business. Now that is something to celebrate!”
Thomas Sweet stores and Café are open seven days, and hours vary seasonally. Check the website for details. www.thomassweet.com. Call Thomas Sweet Chocolate Shop at (609) 924-7222.