(Photo | Courtesy of High Desert Chocolates)
Mixing a tad of ultimation with a generous helping of inspiration, Lanny White provided his wife, Shaunette White, with the recipe she needed to start High Desert Chocolates in Sisters.
When the pandemic started in 2020, White began making chocolates for her husband, and their children, Breanna, a freshman in college; Jasmine, a sixth grader; Layla, a fourth grader and Orion, a second grader. “I was told I needed to find something to do with the chocolates because my husband was worried about gaining weight from eating too many of them,” White said.
Carefully packaging the hand-crafted chocolates, she left them on her friends’ doorsteps. “Everyone kept telling me I needed to start selling them because they enjoyed them so much,” she said.
Returning to where she began her career wasn’t something White had considered. She recalled she discovered her interest in chocolate when she walked into an established chocolate company when she was 19 years old.
Growing up in foster care, White said she was “bounced around a lot.” “I played softball, the one thing consistent in my life,” she said. “I remember getting a treat coupon that I would get chocolate once in a while. When I walked into the chocolate store, I felt at home, and I felt happy. Until then I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.”
She remembers telling herself one day she would own the chocolate store. She was 23 years old when she achieved her goal.
What she appreciated about being part of the franchise is that she was taught everything from how to make chocolates to marketing. The most challenging part was she had to make chocolates according to the franchise’s recipes and couldn’t use her own ideas or creativity. “I loved owning the business, then life happened and I had to sell the store because of my divorce,” she said. “I never thought I would make chocolate again.”
Her next career move was working as a travel agent for ten years, until COVID changed everything. She dreaded receiving phone calls from clients needing to cancel trips. “I would have two or three phones in front of me, all on hold, waiting sometimes seven to nine hours for someone to talk to me so I could cancel a reservation,” she said. “It was awful. People took their frustration about what was happening out on me. I was miserable.”
Making chocolates soothed her sorrows and she found happiness sharing her creations with friends and family. “My husband noticed what was happening and he asked me if I could do anything, what would it be,” she said. “I told him I wished I could have a chocolate store again because everyone who came in would be happy. I wanted to do something that made me and others happy.”
The Whites spent time searching for a building to rent in Sisters. The one they were hoping for didn’t work out, but White truly believes it was for the best. They purchased their current building and began renovations, opening at the beginning of June. “Our motto at High Desert Chocolates is, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind and eat chocolate,” she said. “The world needs more chocolate and more kindness.”
Days of Happiness
White enjoys greeting regular customers who stop by for coffee or their weekly chocolate. The store’s location makes it a perfect stop for tourists on their way into or out of Sisters. She hosts wine and chocolate tastings as well as crafts special chocolates for weddings, birthday parties and anniversaries. She recently added making chocolates for two resorts.
The sweets at High Desert Chocolates include artisan hand-painted chocolates, truffles, gourmet caramel apples, hand-dipped chocolate pretzels, fruit and marshmallows and bark. The flavors change seasonally with an array of always available chocolate treats. She offers nine wines that change seasonally and invite people to attend a chocolate and wine pairing. The next one is Oct. 6.
“I feel like my creative side was put on hold for a bit,” White said. “I love experimenting with different recipes, trying to perfect each one. I am grateful for my taste testers who provide honest feedback. Owning High Desert Chocolates allows me the creative freedom to create chocolates in an elegant way.”
She enjoys the joy she sees when people taste her chocolates or purchase them for gifts. “It’s such a beautiful thing to see other’s happiness when they are doing something to make others happy,” she said.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Layla White, nine, recently told her mother that she was taking over the store when she turned 18.
“I told her when she’s 18, I will only be 48 years old,” White said, laughing. “And Layla said, ‘Well, mom, you can still work for me.’”
White cherishes that her love for chocolate has created a family business, and she’s incredibly grateful for the community’s support. She provides treat coupons to local sports teams so athletes can visit the store and select a treat.
“My vision is to make High Desert Chocolates the “Cheers” version of chocolate,” she said. “I hope everyone who comes in feels like family and chocolate brings happiness to their day.”