Niles businesses collaborate to sweeten their offerings

NILES — Business owners are working together to try to sweeten their offerings while business hours and options have been limited by the pandemic. The tough times have shown local business owners are nothing to “truffle” with.

Apothica Teas and Lavender Hill Farms have collaborated with Veni’s Sweet Shop to offer exclusive truffles showcasing beloved combinations of the unique establishments’ offerings. The truffles are flavored with chocolate, honey, earl grey tea and lavender.

Martha Wilcynski, owner of Lavender Hill Farms, said Laura Hollister, owner of Apothica Teas, approached her with the idea to combine their offerings.

“I had tried convincing Veni’s a couple of years ago to do lavender truffles,” Wilcynski said. “At the time, it wasn’t really on their radar. Things have changed over the last few years, and floral flavors have become more popular in foods, so the time had come to do it.”

Wilcynski is excited to have another offering made with the lavender from her farm. While COVID-19 has limited shop activity through the year, she had already been working through another challenge with the lavender.

“We’ve had to come back from the polar vortex in 2019,” Wilcynski said. “Next year, we should be able to come back. The U-pick season is what really drives people out here. We’ll be able to do that again next year, since we have some younger plants in the ground doing really well.”

The timing also worked so well because Hollister also fuses lavender into some of the teas in her shop. The two decided to approach Veni’s Sweet Shop general manager, Linda Skwarcan, about a collaboration.

“We actually made six different test batches of truffles for [the two business owners] to sample,” Skwarcan said. “The combination of lady grey, earl grey, lavender and honey were the four main ingredients we experimented with.”

In the end, two flavors won out. For Apothica Teas, Hollister chose a truffle with an earl grey and lavender flavor profile. Lavender Hill Farms owner Wilcynski went for a lavender and honey truffle.

The truffles are made by Veni’s Sweet Shop, but are available exclusively through the collaborative businesses.

“People have asked us for them,” Skwarcan said. “They are exclusive. We wanted that business collaboration, too. We made something special for them.”

Hollister said she had had both Lavender Hill Farms and Veni’s Sweet Shop on her radar to collaborate with since before COVID-19.

“I came at it more as there were two wonderful businesses that I wanted to work with. I enjoyed that aspect of working with other people who have fun ideas,” Hollister said. “It just seemed like the natural place to start.”

The flavors were new to Veni’s Sweet Shop, and Hollister thinks the exclusivity sweetened the idea that the flavors would be going to places where others were already seeking out those combinations.

In the same way customers seeking a specific tea combination might visit Apothica Teas, Hollister said customers who enjoy lavender would be seeking out the flavors at Lavender Hill Farms.

Both businesses are working to keep up with the demand, to keep the truffles in stock in their shops. Hollister said her first batch sold out within six hours of being posted on social media.

The truffles are available exclusively through Apothica Teas, located at 222 E. Main St., and Lavender Hill Farms, located at 1219 Morris Dr.

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