“Every product we make is something we are personally connected to and enjoy. My one rule is if we don’t like a flavor, we don’t try to make it. We hope our care for the product shows through.”
Emily Kellogg says she took Woodstock for granted as a kid. “I left and lived in the city for eight years before returning,” she says. “Now that I am back, I appreciate it much more. I think getting to see all four seasons is one of my favorite parts. The foliage. The peace that comes with fresh air. The scenery. There’s a lot of inspiration you can get just from taking a walk.”
Not that Emily found city life lacking in inspiration. She’d been baking since age six, doing it professionally since 14, excelling her way through the Culinary Arts program at Ulster County BOCES and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Then she ventured to the city, where she worked for Gotham Chocolates and then became head chocolatier at Per Se, a three-star Michelin place on Columbus Circle. “Chocolate is a science and, as long as you follow the rules, it's a joy to work with,” Emily says.
At Per Se, Emily “really deep-dived into bonbons.” She also found a partner in Pierre Pouplard, born in Nantes in western France, continuing his own culinary adventures as Per Se’s savory chef after honing his skills in Paris. The two had plenty in common: passionate love of food, rock solid work ethic, and adventurous spirit. Then came COVID-19, and Per Se shut down along with everywhere else. “We spent a lot of time in a one-bedroom apartment. We began re-evaluating our lives and what we wanted out of our future. There was lots of discussion about what made us happy and the value of our time,” says Emily.
“We made the move back to the Hudson Valley after a weekend visit to my mom; we decided to take a walk through Woodstock and saw a space available. That day in town started this whole business venture. It was very serendipitous. We hadn’t planned on starting a business at all, and then everything just happened at the right moment.”
“If we want to try something new, check out new techniques and flavors, we just go for it. We get to come to work and play with chocolate!”
What happened was, well, delicious. EJ Bonbons and Confections opened on May 28, 2021, offering small-batch artisanal handcrafted bonbons, caramel, nougat, and chocolate-covered nuts in the heart of town, and Woodstockers rejoiced. “We were very fortunate with the location,” says Emily. “We were looking at a different space but when the previous tenant of our current location, a family friend, heard we were looking, they offered to give up their lease for us.
Once we met with the landlord and showed her our business plan, the rest was history. We were very lucky with the number of people who believed in what we wanted to do as much as we did.”
“Chocolate is a science and, as long as you follow the rules, it's a joy to work with.”
– Emily Kellogg
It’s easy to see why the community welcomed what Emily describes as “feel-good sweets. Every product we make is something we are personally connected to and enjoy. My one rule is if we don’t like a flavor, we don’t try to make it. We hope our care for the product shows through.”
It does. Hudson Valley magazine celebrated the shop’s launch by speculating that it might be time to proclaim our area the “sweet tooth capital of the world.” “Each chocolate looks like a little piece of art. The flavors are delicious, smooth, and surprising. I still think about the texture and flavor of the lemon one,” writes Jasmine Angelique Smith in one of a great many five-star Internet reviews. Customers, says Emily, have been “a blend of locals and tourists. Chocolate is good for any occasion or to just enjoy for yourself, so we get a good mix of people going to dinner parties wanting something to bring, giving a gift, or just simply looking to enjoy our product for themselves.” Between the two of them, Emily and Pierre handle everything from production and counter service to sweeping up, along with social media and email; with some help from Emily’s uncle, they even did their own renovations. It’s been an adventure, one they’ve been navigating by steering a steady course.
“I think we are just trying to stay genuine and true to who we are,” Emily says, “two people who quit our jobs and put our savings into a new business with no idea how things would turn out.But we love what we do and there is something special about it being whatever we make it. Our business can only be as successful as we are willing to put the time into it…I think when people come in and see that it’s us working, the experience becomes even more personal. We aren’t some large company with a ton of employees.”
“Each chocolate looks like a little piece of art. The flavors are delicious, smooth, and surprising. I still think about the texture and flavor of the lemon one.”
The upside of handling everything for themselves is the liberty that comes with it. “So much of working in the restaurant industry is long, taxing hours,” says Emily, “working most major holidays, not having a lot of time off. I think having our own business really allows us to take care of our mental and physical well-being. Although we work extremely hard and long hours to build a successful business, if we need a moment for ourselves, we close the shop for a day.”
That said, you’ll find them open most days—and with a superb selection of seasonally inspired delectables handcrafted using as many local ingredients as possible. It’s where they love to be, after all, and after eating, breathing, and sleeping the pressurized world of haute New York City cuisine, they’re both finding fresh inspiration in the freedom among the mountain vistas and music of the creeks.
“I think just being our own bosses makes work the most fun,” says Emily. “We always have products to sell but if we want to try something new, check out new techniques and flavors, we just go for it. We get to come to work and play with chocolate! Now that we’ve gotten the hang of our current offerings, we’re going to start making some new items. We’ll be adding chocolate and candy bars, and we’re discussing doing ice cream soon as well.”
“Art never tasted so good,” proclaims the store’s website—as if we needed any more proof that out of the pandemic shuffle has emerged the candy store that Woodstock truly deserves. Come, let it melt in your mouth.
ej bonbons and confections
2 Old Forge Road, Woodstock