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Tampa woman retires from teaching to become a chocolatier

Jennifer Hill and her family are ready to open a Peterbrooke Chocolatier location in downtown Tampa in mid-September.
Credit: Drew Hill

Chocolate has always been a favorite treat for the Hill family.

“I’m a chocolate freak,” said Jennifer Hill, the owner of the newest Peterbrooke Choclatier franchise in Florida.

Hill’s dream has been to open a chocolate shop. Her entire family moved from Jacksonville to Tampa seven years ago after a decade in northern Florida. They loved their new home but missed the sweets they fell in love with while living in Duval county.

“We dearly missed our neighborhood chocolatier treats,” wrote Hill’s daughter, Drew, 25, in an email.

Drew handles the marketing for the family shop, which is still under construction. Sydney, 21, will help with chocolate production. Jennifer will tackle the business side.

The shop will be a full-on family affair.

“We’ve already been put to work,” said Sydney, who has been learning how to print edible logos on chocolate for business partnerships. “We decided to follow her. We wanted to help her fulfill her dream.”

The Peterbrooke Chocolatier brand started in Jacksonville in 1983. Since then, Peterbrooke become a household name throughout Jacksonville with 12 stores across the city. The Hills started going to sample the chocolates and got “hooked” on them.

They couldn’t find any comparable candies in Tampa Bay. So, they signed their own Peterbrooke franchise agreement in November. It’s set to open in downtown Tampa in mid-September.

“I love all things sweets. I feel like I got it from (mom) because when she was pregnant with me all she ate was Reese’s,” said Sydney, who even had birthday parties at Peterbrooke shops in Jacksonville as a child.

Jennifer is a recently retired school teacher who spent more than 17 years in the classroom, including six at East Lake Middle School. Each family member has completed extensive chocolatier certification training. Peterbrooke is known for its handmade caramels. The shop will also offer scratch-made marshmallows and chocolate-covered cookies.

They found that making the treats they loved was no simple recipe.

“I don’t think I’ve slept since July,” joked Jennifer.

Ninety percent of their products are made by hand in an open kitchen. Customers will be able to watch as they shop.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a stumbling block to opening. The Hills had hoped to have the store open in July. They pushed that start date back to Labor Day weekend. Even that had to be postponed until mid-September.

Jennifer says they’ve waited seven years for this delicious opportunity. A few more days won’t hurt them.

“This will be a Tampa empire. I’ve already bought the rights to develop three stores,” she said. “I want it to be a family dynasty. I want each one of my daughters to have their own story.

“I want this to be a legacy for us.”

“There has been an outpour of excitement and support from the Tampa Bay community?” wrote Drew in an email. “So regardless of the setbacks, we believe that our store will be a success and will soon be a household favorite here in Tampa!”

The new Tampa Downtown Peterbrooke Chocolatier location will be located near the Glazer Children’s Museum and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park at 777 N. Ashley Drive. Tentative hours upon opening will be 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sundays.

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