Ben Smith knew the time had come.
For years around the holidays, he had been making dark and white chocolate bark with crushed organic candy canes out of his home, giving it to friends, family and acquaintances. With encouragement from his wife, Michelle, he launched a business, The Apothecary’s Kitchen, in 2012.
This year, though, was the year the materials engineer was going to see just how far he could take his side business. Thanks to his wife’s contacts – she’s an artsy entrepreneur who owns Gather in downtown Cary – Ben Smith sent samples of the peppermint bark to national lifestyle magazines over the summer for consideration in holiday gift guides.
“I was lucky enough it worked,” said Ben Smith, 35.
You could say that. The bark is included in a gift guide in December’s Martha Stewart Living, and readers can buy it through her curated “American Made” collection on eBay. Oh, and the bark is expected to be in December’s Bon Appetit magazine, too.
It’s a remarkable accomplishment considering Smith is essentially a one-man operation, with assistance from his wife, of course. The N.C. State graduate works in a lab doing chemistry experiments during the day at Henkel Corporation in Cary, which makes adhesive, among other products.
At night, after he puts his 6-year-old daughter, Audrey, to bed, he continues to mix potions of the edible variety in his Department of Agriculture-certified kitchen. The Smiths live in Raleigh, near the Cary border.
It’s a time-consuming process to make the bark and then package it, label it and tie it in its signature box.
“A couple of people are on call if I get in a dire emergency,” he said.
The business and the name are a nod to Ben Smith’s ancestors, who ran the oldest apothecary in the country from 1792 to 1933. Smith enjoys keeping his family’s legacy alive of concocting prescriptions. Some would say chocolate is the perfect cure for many ailments, right?
“It’s a neat connection,” he said.
Smith is bracing for orders to come in. Knowing that he would get the burst of national publicity, he has made lots and lots of batches in the last month so he would be ready.
“For me, it’s going from basically nothing to making an awful lot of it,” he said.
So far, the orders haven’t poured in, though he’s received wholesale inquiries from stores. He expects business could increase as people begin their holiday shopping.
Still, the attention is exciting, though what it means hasn’t quite hit him yet.
“It’s pretty crazy,” he said. “I didn’t think it would happen. And on the other hand, it’s out there in magazines. It’s hard for me to know what to expect.”
Those on-call friends should be ready.