Brittle Bark could quite possibly be the happiest place in all of central Pennsylvania—especially during the holiday season.
Tucked into a tall corner storefront along Main Street in Mechanicsburg with a brightly decorated seasonal front window, the chocolate and candy shop has earned a sweet reputation over the past 10 years.
“Everybody who comes into a candy store is happy,” manager Vonny Getz said. “It’s an extremely fun job because we’re able to help people find unique gifts that make them happy.”
Brittle Bark—think peanut brittle, evolved into 15 varieties—is the product that launched the business and transformed owner Diane Krulac from a software executive into one of central Pennsylvania’s most famous specialty careers: chocolatier.
“Our Brittle Bark covered in dark chocolate and sea salt is my personal favorite,” Getz said. “It’s crunchy, sweet and salty, and I recommend it all the time.”
It was 1992 when Krulac whipped up a batch of peanut brittle for her daughter’s preschool fundraiser. Requests for more poured in, and a decade later, Krulac founded Brittle Bark as a side business.
Krulac, originally trained as a dental hygienist, was enjoying a second career in the software and IT industry after earning her undergraduate and master’s degrees in computer science.
“As many women do, I needed a clean break,” she said. “So I went back to school again—this time to become a chocolatier. At 66 years old, this is my third career, and I’m fascinated. There’s never a dull moment, and I have so many ideas.”
By 2008, Krulac opened Brittle Bark as a brick-and-mortar retail shop in Mechanicsburg. In addition to the namesake product, the shop offers chocolate-covered pretzels, fruit such as blueberries or strawberries dipped in chocolate, gourmet popcorn in several varieties, Oreos encased in chocolate—many of which are adorned with colorful and artistic transfer art.
A candy case features about two dozen types of gourmet and artisan chocolates, including classic varieties like raspberry truffles, sea salt caramels, peanut butter cups, chocolate-covered cherries and Krulac’s favorite—buttercreams. More creative varieties include truffles infused with coffee, cappuccino, key lime, Earl Grey tea and cabernet flavors.
“I never set out to own a retail candy store,” Krulac said. “But I’ve always had a sweet tooth.”
Getz said that they know the favorites from all their regular customers.
“We know everyone’s vices,” said Getz, with a laugh.
The one thing all Brittle Bark products have in common?
“Everything is hand-dipped,” Krulac said.
Find Your Niche
“Buy local” is one of Krulac’s guiding principles.
Nearly all of the chocolate melted into the shop’s creations begin as Wilbur Buds, produced in Lititz, Pa. Krulac has established a relationship with Wilbur Chocolates’ chocolatier, who supplies her with both milk and dark chocolate varieties.
“Wilbur Buds are very cocoa-rich and creamy,” Krulac says. “It’s fun when we do a chocolate tasting of international and American chocolate varieties—by far, the favorite is always Wilbur.”
Additional local flavors intertwined with Brittle Bark’s products include Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels and fruit from Mechanicsburg’s Oak Grove Farms. “Fire Salt” sprinkled atop Aztec Truffles hails from Lemoyne’s Calicutts Spice Co. The shop even invested in candy molds shaped like the state Capitol so visitors can purchase dome-shaped chocolates.
Sweet holiday treats include a peppermint-flavored Brittle Bark, pumpkin spice and sugar plum truffles, artisan s’mores and a wide variety of holiday gift baskets.
Krulac said that one of the biggest advantages to “buying local” chocolates and candies is that everything in her shop is fresh. In contrast, commercially produced holiday candy is manufactured six to nine months before the holidays, she said.
She especially enjoys the challenge of creating customized chocolates and candies for customers, including branded goods for businesses.
“We are not afraid to do crazy things,” she said. “Chocolate is a great marketing tool and leaves a delicious lasting impression much better than a ballpoint pen.”
Brittle Bark’s local partnerships extend to events, as well.
Their maroon and white “Downtown Mechanicsburg Partnership” flag flies outside during shop hours. Recently, the shop partnered with Mechanicsburg’s Rosemary House for a chocolate-and-tea pairing. They also created a beer brittle for a local brewery’s fall event, and planning is underway for the “Cha Cha Cha Chocolate Extravaganza” on Feb. 2.
If the idea of becoming a chocolatier—at least for one day—sounds appealing, Krulac has you covered. Brittle Bark offers seasonal chocolatier classes, including those designed for teens and younger children, plus “mommy and me” sessions. Participants learn how to melt milk, dark and white chocolate, incorporate flavorings such as raspberry, create special effects, decorate the candy and much more. Current classes allow participants to create holiday gifts complete with gift packaging, ribbons and bows on top.
Krulac’s own chocolate education also continues.
“You’re never too old to learn,” she said. “I try to take a class every year.
She said that creating vegan chocolates is the field’s “new frontier.”
“Chocolate making is a very creative field, especially today,” Krulac said. “There are high expectations because of the specialty food industry. You have to find your niche and then you can express your creative soul to the enjoyment of others.”
Brittle Bark is located at 33 W. Main St., Mechanicsburg. For more information, call 717-697-6950 or visit www.BrittleBark.com.
Author: Karen Hendricks