By Garrin Marchetti
The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.
When Hollywood royalty descended on Los Angeles for the Academy Awards last weekend, some of the event’s most important guests received special treats with a little Merrimack Valley flavor.
When the VIP guests of Dolby Laboratories, host of awards show, entered their hotel rooms Friday night, they received a decorated box of chocolates courtesy of The Candy Dish, a wholesale candy company owned and operated by Melissa DiMinico, a North Andover resident, and Shauna Iannuzzi.
“We found out during Christmas week that Dolby wanted to use our product,” DiMinico said. “I couldn’t believe it. It was so exciting.”
The Oscars have been the highlight of somewhat whirlwind experience for the small business, which officially started in November 2013.
Since then, The Candy Shop has sold its products in a variety of different restaurants and supermarkets, including Legal Harborside in Boston and Piantedosi Bread Shoppe in Winchester.
DiMinico and Iannuzzi, who have known each other for five years, first began working together when DiMinico, a mother of two young boys, was looking for gift bag ideas for her sons’ birthday parties. Iannuzzi, who attended the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, had worked for six years as a chocolatier in Gloucester and offered her help.
“I would always have these ideas for kids parties, and Shauna would make these great chocolate party favors,” DiMinico said. “Parents would see them, get interested, and then asked if we could do them for their parties. People were liking our products. We said, ‘OK, maybe this could be something more.'”
Eventually, the duo began providing party favors for birthday parties, weddings and baby showers throughout the area. They became a licensed business, created their own website to showcase the treats, and started a Facebook page.
Word quickly spread about The Candy Dish, including all the way to Los Angeles, home of one DiMinico’s longtime friends, Tarrah Curtis.
According to DiMinico, Curtis moved out west after college and worked for the Oscars for many years in its public relations department.
She recently started her own company entitled T Squared Productions, and one of her clients was Dolby.
After seeing the tasty treats on The Candy Dish’s website, Curtis asked DiMinico if she would be interested in providing chocolates for Dolby’s VIP guests during Oscars weekend. DiMinico and Iannuzzi sent samples to Curtis in September, and in December, they received the good news: Dolby would serve their guests chocolate from The Candy Dish.
“Because of the time difference, we didn’t find out until midnight,” DiMinico said. “I called Shauna, and then I called and texted anyone who was awake.”
“It was very exciting,” Iannuzzi said. “I did not expect that.”
As the women began preparing for the big shipment, they connected with Trish Martini, owner of Soiree, Andover, an invitation and stationary store in Andover. Martini gave The Candy Dish gold glitter boxes with a burgundy red ribbon, perfect colors for the star-studded event. Iannuzzi created special chocolates such as chocolate dipped Oreos with frosted tuxedos and ballgowns and gold-salted caramels.
After several weeks of hard work, the team mailed out 15 boxes to Los Angeles for last weekend’s festivities. Each box has seven chocolates, a mix of both milk and dark, for guests to enjoy with some champagne, provided by Dolby.
The women are still in shock their treats will be enjoyed by some of Hollywood’s elite.
“It’s been thrilling,” DiMinico said. “The Oscars has obviously been a highlight. It’s been great to share it with our friends and family, who have been so supportive and were just as excited as we were when we found out.”
The support of the community has been an important, and special, part of The Candy Dish’s success, according to Martini.
“This has totally been a community effort,” she said. “We (Soiree and The Candy Dish) were able to connect because someone recommended them to us on Facebook. It’s really important to have that kind of togetherness.”
The Candy Dish continues to put its name out there. DiMincio, who handles the marketing aspect of the business, has several meetings upcoming with other restaurants and stores looking to potentially sell their chocolate.
“We have fun doing it,” Iannuzzi said. “Everyday I just have to pinch myself. I have a feeling something big is going to happen in the future for us.”