Life happens. Chocolate helps. Some guy said.

By Pat Hickey

September 9, 2022

When Christopher Columbus discovered a canoe full of cacao beans, he had no idea that a commodity of Indigenous people would become the confection that conquered the world. In time, chocolate captured the taste buds and imaginations of every person on earth.

As a child, I remember chocolate to be a treat solely for adults. The little guys got Mary Janes, Chuckles, Good & Plenty, Pink & Whites, gum drops, licorice and peppermints.

Chocolates, especially the high-end candies in rectangular boxes that only came out when adults were gathered in the front room of our Georgian at 75th and Wood Street Streets in Chicago, were off limits.

They were out of the common reach of kids and thus became forbidden fruit.

Chocolates were stacked and arranged on silver-plated platters and presented in individual paper doilies. We were told to keep our mitts off them, or else.

As a Roman Catholic attending Little Flower grammar school, I was dragooned into the parochial sales force of World’s Finest Chocolates—long ingots of rock-hard dark and milk chocolate. I blew my spending loot at Mary Anne’s Sundries on ice cold bottles of Kayo chocolate drink. My Dad dusted scoops of vanilla ice cream from Hamilton Dairy with Bakers Dry Chocolate for an inventive treat for me and my little brother and sister. Hot and cold drinks, cakes, cream pies, candies, ice cream–and who knows what else–were made with chocolate to celebrate our senses and treat our souls.

Columbus made a great find.

Because he led Europe to the Aztecs and Mayans, and it was they who discovered chocolate. The Spanish marketed the stuff. The Dutch added sugar and milk. The English made it into bars. An Irishman invented chocolate milk and the Swiss made it expensive.

Chocolate makes life better.

Some people make great chocolate treats, and they are called chocolatiers. Tina Little, nee Gralik, is an outstanding chocolatier in northwest Indiana.

She runs Little Chocolates in the city of LaPorte. This is a family operation begun in the early days of the new millennium when things were tight for the young and growing Little family. Wall Street was being bailed out. General Motors was bailed out. Solar panel start-ups could get federal handouts, but the little people who paid expensive mortgage and rental rates had to scrimp and save. Family-owned business operations vanished due to Walmart, Costco and hypocrites with Union Proud bumper stickers glutting the parking lots of Mega stores, all while protesting Big Box developments. President Obama was telling Americans, “You didn’t build that!” The Little family was doing exactly that, Mr. President. The Little family built Little Chocolates.

Tina’s husband Chris, a union carpenter, started giving and then selling Tina’s treats out of the trunk of his car. Tina always liked caramels, and that was her path to the chocolate business.

Tina Little studied up on chocolate making and perfected her craft. Very soon folks were clamoring for more Little Chocolates. The Littles eventually found a rental space close to the LaPorte business center and yards from the Lincoln Highway.

Tina Little now has an established business with a growing clientele. She and her family built Little Chocolates. No one handed them anything, but they give back anyway. Little Chocolates provides help to charities, churches, and children with special needs.

The LaPorte High School Workforce Program places student workers who have been diagnosed Autistic or with Downs Syndrome with a spot in the workplace, and Tina Little shows them how to put candies on the doilies. The Littles built it and they put it to effective use training young people to work in the confection industry.

The Little Family, Chris, Tina, Joshua, Benjamin, and Allison, operate Little Chocolates. They are devout Christians.

Tina was trained as a radiographer and worked in local medical facilities, but her growing family made the hours untenable for a mother committed to her children. Therefore, her love of chocolates and treats became a vehicle for meeting economic challenges and keeping close and loving hold on her children. Benjamin and Joshua participate in the business and now the youngest, Allison, is getting her fingers wet with the delicious concoctions.

Little Chocolates are superb. Here are but a few of the glories offered like a found poem:

Buckeyes, caramels, truffles, maple, coco dads, turtles, chocolate-covered marshmallows, butter cremes and chocolate-covered (milk, white and dark chocolate) double-thick Oreos.

My personal addiction is the chocolate drizzled potato chips.

I purchased a bag and offered them to a painter who had been working on the front door to the store.

He ate one and was transformed into a devotee of Little Chocolate potato chips, as well. Enraptured he said:

“Damn, brother! I don’t know whether to hug you or kick you for turning me on to these.”

I was neither hugged nor kicked but delighted in his conversion.

Little Chocolates, like the Fish Camp restaurant in Michigan City, is the product of core values.

Faith, devotion to family and community and an old-fashioned work ethic are building blocks of capitalism.

Private, not collective, ownership steers capital accumulation and seeks competition through development and distribution of a superior product.

Tina Little presented me with a puzzle. She asked me about a 1930s era photo of August Landmesser. He was the German shipyard worker who famously refused to give the Nazi salute as thousands of workers extended their right arm. He didn’t, instead he stood with arms crossed a frown on his face.

“Most of us like to believe that we would be August Landmesser,” Tina said. “That we would never cave in and go along. But how many of us actually do just that? I treat people like I myself would like to be treated. I might get weak and toss up my arm like those others in the photo. What I do is make really good things to eat with the best ingredients. Maybe the man in that photo was just folding his arms and really not making a statement.

We never know. We can only try and do what God wants us to do. Love one another. Work hard. Try to be honest and try to think the best of our neighbors.”

Little Chocolates became my Christmas shop. I purchased baskets of chocolates in many varieties to the delight of family and friends. Boxes (1-2 lb.) are available, as well as pound bags of chocolate-covered peanuts, raisins, cherries, and coffee beans. Chocolate lollipops for every season from Halloween to Easter are on hand, as well as bags of those chocolate drizzled potato chips.

Little Chocolates was decidedly built by Tina and Chris Little, and their children continue to whip up wonderful sweets and treats.

Mr. Columbus, Tina Little certainly made effective use of your discovery.

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About Pat Hickey: A frequent contributor to johnkassnews.com, Pat Hickey has written on great literature for young people, a highway to unite the nation, working on a boat on Lake Michigan, and a superb restaurant called “Fish Camp.

After a lifetime of teaching in the Roman Catholic schools in Illinois, he moved to Michigan City, Indiana, where he job-coaches Downs Syndrome and Autistic teens in LaPorte County. He’s a grandfather now, knows the lyrics to sea shanties by heart, and walks to the Michigan City Lighthouse every chance he gets.

JK