How To Go Chocolate Buying & Not Gain 5 Lbs!

So….made you look, huh?!?!  Well, what I’m really talking about chocolate buying as a buyer for a store, walking a convention center filled with option-upon-option of the tasty stuff from all over the world.  I just returned home from the Fancy Food Show in NYC where, I’m happy to report, I found some delicious new selections that will soon be on our shelves.  I’ve been shopping this show ever since we open the store, and I don’t know that I ever seen it this crowded.  When I first started going to the show, I was overwhelmed by all of the choices – not just the chocolate that I was shopping for, but all of the choices in so many categories of food – crackers, cookies, cheese, pastas, yogurts, – I could go on and on and on. During the recession, there’s no doubt that attendance at the show dropped off – both in terms of attendees looking for new products, but also exhibiting vendors.  Well, this year it certainly seems to me that we’re back at it and we’ve hit our stride again, because this show absolutely wiped me out!

Of course, there was a lot of chocolate tasting going on – after all, how else would I know if it’s a good fit for Max’s and whether I think you’d like it?!? The show is so huge, and the chocolatiers and chocolate distributors are spread throughout the convention center. I used to think that that was confusing and, while it’s still is anything from straightforward, I have learned that the opportunity to sample a lentil chip or some humus  in between chocolate bites is not only a nice break, it’s almost a necessity. People often tell me joke with me about what a “rough job” I have, but the truth of the matter is it really is hard to sample all this chocolate (cue the violins)! When you start at 10:00 in the morning and all you’re  searching for is chocolate, it does not take long before both your flavor pallet and your stomach are overwhelmed and can’t decipher the differences between the options. One of the best ways to cut through the flavor characteristics of the samples is to take advantage of the coffee samples from the roasters exhibiting at the show. Before long, I find myself up to the brim with chocolate and coffee—wheeeeee!!!!!!!  Having said all of this, I obviously have to admit that it really is fun to come shop for new chocolates. I’m excited about what I’ve tasted and what we’ve decided to bring to Max’s yet this year. Chocolate with coconut – coconut flakes, coconut milk, coconut sugar – it’s a huge trend and you’ll start seeing more of that in the store soon. I really can’t  call sea salt chocolate a trend anymore, because it’s been around just too long to be a trend. I feel safe in saying it’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future and has actually become quite common place. Don’t misunderstand that for me saying that I don’t like it – I actually love it! – it’s just that it’s not terribly unique anymore.   

The purity of food – in all categories, not just chocolate – continues to be a real focus. Non-GMO, allergen free, gluten free (which is also so mainstream and everywhere that it can hardly be called a trend anymore) were features that were heavily promoted by vendors in many food categories.  Nut milks were big — I loved the macadamia milk!  Healthy snacks are also huge–I sampled quite a bit of fruit bites, dried fruit, puffed fruit, crackers made with rice, quinoa, kale — you get the point. Those of you who know me well know that this is a big deal for me – both because of my own food sensitivities/intolerances and a strong personal need to focus on ingredients, but also because I feel that it’s important to you and it’s an issue of credibility. One of my pet peeves is when I find milk powder in dark chocolate. I get it when there is an inclusion in the dark chocolate – then all bets are off when it comes to some additives — but unless chocolate is labeled as a dark milk, I don’t understand why there is any milk in dark chocolate…???

About the picture above.  While I wasn’t shopping for cheese in addition to the chocolate, I thought that this might help convey just how huge this show is — and this is only part of one floor of the show — this shows row 1800 and it went to 5600.  I hope that you’ll stay tuned for information about our new arrivals.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in some of the offerings we currently have, you can check it them out here.  I’m off to the gym because I really didn’t find any way to eat all of that chocolate and not feel it a bit around the waist!  🙂

Travel to Hawaii–with Vicente Agor

I love Hawaii.  Everything about it — the beauty of the island, the blue of the ocean which seems to go on forever, the food, the aloha spirit (which does exist).  I also love the inspirations behind the various jewelry collections from Vicente Agor (who, incidentally, grew up in Hawaii).  Vicente is one of the designers who, in my opinion, really thinks about what he wants a specific collection to represent before he sets out to create it.  It’s not just about pretty stones and pretty design — it’s about using those things to tell a story.

In his most recent collection, called Hokule’a, his inspiration is the story of how the first Hawaiians — Polynesians who traveled by double-hulled sailing canoe from Tahiti — arrived at the islands. Hōkūleʻa means star of gladness in Hawaiian and is also the Hawaiian name for Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern hemisphere. The voyage was reenacted in 1975, without use of modern navigation equipment to honor those initial expeditions by the islands’ ancestors.

According to Vicente, “In the 1970s, the Hawaiian people had become a caricature in hula skirts and loud printed shirts, and this voyage was empowering to the people. It reminded them that their ancestors had the wherewithal to navigate the oceans and use natural elements like the sun and stars to sail these long distances. And the interesting thing, in my mind, is that it motivated an entire generation to believe ‘you are greater than what you have been told.’ ”

In the Hokule’a collection, there are stylized gold versions of stars, water, moon and sun,the elements used to navigate the ocean, combined with conflict free diamonds and recycled 18K gold and gemstones.  It’s a beautiful way to tell this story.  We invite you to see it for yourself at our trunk show and Max’s 10th birthday celebration, this Friday and Saturday, May 20 and 21.  In keeping with what has become tradition at Max’s, a portion of the proceeds from the sales of Vicente’s jewelry will be donated to Life-Source and the University of Minnesota Transplant Fund.

Max’s is 10 Years Old!!!!

It’s a fact — you can’t turn back the hands of time.  You can, however, celebrate it’s passage and that’s what we’ll be doing this weekend at Max’s because we’re 10 years old (May 22, 2016 is the exact date)!  People’s first reaction when I tell them that it’s been 10 years is one of surprise — how can it be 10 already?  A lot certainly has happened — remember that we opened across the street from where we now are, went through the ^$(@&(@&$ recession, held lots of parties and fun trunk shows with our wonderful designers — so, to me, I’m not super-surprised that we’ve hit this milestone.  There are no words for me to express how appreciative I am for the ongoing support of our customers.  It’s not only your patronage, but you words of encouragement and acts of friendship that make it such a joy to come to work every day.  Thank you, thank you, thank you — for trusting us, for encouraging us, for laughing with us, and for being there with us and for us.

As for our celebration, we absolutely had to have a designer join us.  This was an easy pick for me — Vicente Agor had to be in the store.  Not only has Vicente been coming to the store with his beautiful collections since we opened, but he is also the first designer with whom I ever placed an order, so he holds a really special place in my heart.  Vicente’s fine jewelry collections are inspired by his personal memories and experiences, so it makes sense that the creation of his bridal jewelry stems from his own marriage last year and I’m really excited and proud that he has decided to use this years visit to Max’s to launch this bridal collection.

In addition to the trunk show, we’ll have drawings for some great gifts (including some jewelry!) andswag bags filled with great things.  And, of course, there will be lots and lots of chocolates too–along with other delicious treats.

As for the picture at the top of this post.  This clock was in my grandfather’s store in Michigan.  This ring, from that store, has been in my jewelry box since I was a little girl.  You definitely can’t turn back the hands of time, but it sure feels nice to remember the past.

It’s All About the Angles with Janis Kerman

Geometry finally makes sense to me when I look at Janis Kerman’s designs!  There is something so clean and neat about her work that really appeals to my sense (and maybe desire for!) order and structure.  Her asymmetrical earrings, like the ones in this picture, are some of my favorites.  I love the fact that she says “it’s the balance, not the symmetry” when it comes to design. I think of that as a corollary to “jewelry pieces should coordinate, not be matchy-matchy”.  The other thing  that Janis is a master at is taking older jewelry pieces  (a.k.a. the things that you’re not wearing and are just sitting in a drawer somewhere — but you don’t have the heart to give away) and creating something brand new from it.  This is the necklace she made for me a couple of years ago from some necklaces and earrings that I had.

Ellen Pearls BACK

One of the things that is so rewarding is to hear a customer who has a “repurposed” piece of jewelry from Janis tell us how much she loves it — both because of how it looks, as well as because it enables her to wear things that have sentimental meaning but haven’t seen the light of day in years.  This is a great time of year to go through your jewelry box (you know, it’s that spring cleaning thing!) and see if there aren’t some pieces that you’re not totally ready to part with but that you aren’t wearing.  And, as you can tell from the earrings in the picture above, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have matching stones.

If you’d like to spend some time with Janis so that she can sketch some designs for you, please give us a call so that we can schedule an appointment.  In addition to the custom design work, there will be plenty of Janis’ finished jewelry to look at that you might want to make your own too.  The trunk show and custom design event runs Thursday and Friday, May 12 and 13, from 10am – 7pm, and Saturday, May 14 from 10am-5pm.


From the Bench: Meet Jennifer Dawes

Well now, it’s been quite a while since we’ve posted a “From the Bench” designer profile and that’s not good!  We’re going to ramp this section of our blog a bit going forward and, to start things off, we’re focusing on Jennifer Dawes, the designer of Dawes Design jewelry.  Our friends at Indesign.Jewelry are making it easy for us to bring you some inside info about Jennifer’s approach to design, as they recently conducted this great Q&A with her.  It was SO great, that there is a follow-up interview too!

One of the things I like the most about Jennifer and her jewelry is that she has a definite point of view — a point of view on what she wants to create, how she wants to create it and how she wants to run her business.  We’ve gone from carrying more of Jennifer’s “everyday” jewelry to carrying more of her bridal rings like the ones in the picture above.  Moving forward, you’ll be seeing more of the everyday gemstone collections in the store.  In the meantime, I hope that you’ll take a look at these interviews and enjoy getting to know one of our designers a little bit better!

It’s Time — A Jamie Joseph Trunk Show!

Back by popular demand!  Yep, we had just barely begun to announce our 2016 event schedule (which, by the way, is still in the making for the 2nd half of the year) when customers began asking when we would be having a Jamie Joseph show.  It’s always a fun time as Jamie sends boxes of rings in a multitude of gorgeous colors/stones and customers try to decide between this one and that one.  This year, in addition to the gemstone rings, Jamie will be sending some of her rings from her new bridal collection which was recently profiled by Minnesota Bride magazine.  The line is beautiful, and the organic look and feel that we’ve all come to know and love about her work is present in in the bridal collection as well.  There are bound to be other goodies in the selection that makes it’s way from Jamie’s Seattle studio to the Twin Cities for the weekend of April 8-9 — it’s always a surprise to open the box and see what’s inside.  Whatever it is, it’s sure to be bold, beautiful and will definitely put a smile on the lucky lady who gets to wear it!

You’re Invited to Breakfast at Max’s for Valentine’s Day!

That well known celebration of love is upon us – you know what I’m talking about – it’s Valentine’s Day! – and you’re invited to Breakfast at Max’s on February 13. We’re calling it “baubles, bites and bubbly” because you’ll be able to enjoy delicious breakfast treats to eat and drink from our neighbors at Blackstone Bistro while you shop for all of your Valentine’s Day gifts. In addition to that, we’re having a live MyTalk 107.1 Shop Girls broadcast going on, because it just wouldn’t be the Saturday before Valentine’s Day around here if Allison and Harmony weren’t in the store talking jewelry and chocolate gift ideas.  And, while Audrey Hepburn can’t join us (and we do think that our cover girl Kate does a great job at channeling Ms. Hepburn from that certain movie about breakfast in front of a particular jewelry store…..), we certainly hope that you will — no reservations needed!  The breakfast fare will be available between 10:30 – 1:00, with the live broadcast taking place between 11-1.  As an added bonus, the first 25 people who come for breakfast will receive a heart “token” from that can be redeemed any time on February 13 at Blackstone Bistro for a cocktail of their choosing.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  While many dismiss VDay as being too commercial and simply made up, we choose to embrace the spirit of the “season” as we don’t believe that there is ever such a thing as too much love!

From Across “The Pond” — A Jo Hayes Ward Trunk Show!

The British are coming, the British are coming!  Ok, so not exactly.  But Jo Hayes Ward, who is from Britain, IS coming to Max’s for her very first trip to the store (and to Minneapolis)!  Jo’s work is recognized for its intricate, architectural aesthetic and is really unique and highly contemporary and – well – just very cool. When I first met Jo a couple of years ago, I know instantly that her jewelry had to be at Max’s because it was so beautiful and different from anything I had seen before.  She is part of the Rock Vault, a program run by the British Fashion Council, aimed at highlighting a select group of Britain’s most innovate jewelry designers.  I’m so excited to have her in the store because, in addition to making stunning jewelry, she is an absolute delight.

Keeping with the British theme, we’ll be enjoying a bit of the “High Tea” tradition during the trunk show, complete with chocolate sampling featuring the chocolates of British chocolatier Willie’s Cacao.  I first became aware of Willie’s chocolates a couple of years ago and, when it was finally possible to import them from the UK, I jumped at the chance.  I’m a purist when it comes to chocolate — the less that’s in it the better — and Willie’s is straight up cacao and sugar (except for the bars that have delicious pairings/inclusions like ginger and lime).  You can read more about Willie’s Cacao here — and Willie’s story  is both fascinating and educational.  Yes, there really is a Willie!

The trunk show is Friday and Saturday, February 5 and 6 and Jo and I are both hoping to see you.  Cheers!


All We Need is Love!!!

That calendar-marked day of love is approaching!  Now I know that some (and maybe a lot, but I hope it’s not most) of you are anti-Valentine’s Day, feeling that it’s nothing but a marketing ploy by greeting card and candy manufacturers.  Not wanting to mix holiday metaphors, I say bah-humbug to that.  While it’s true that we shouldn’t need reminders to say “I love you” to those we do in fact love, and that giving a “just because” gift once in while is genuine and truly the best, I have no problem with a forced reminder (and that is not because Max’s is a jewelry and chocolate boutique!) to take a minute to celebrate those we love.

Ok, disclaimer finished.  Because we ARE a jewelry and chocolate boutique, and because Valentine’s Day IS a day known for giving such gifts, we thought we’d put together some ideas for you to get the gift giving juices going!  So, in the spirit of the season, here is a little gift guide filled with some things that we love as gift ideas for the day of love!

Tick Tock — Max’s Semi-Annual Sale is Winding Down!

Tick, tock – no pressure here, but just a friendly reminder that our semi-annual sale is winding down. Yep, the unsold items go back in the safe at the end of the day on Saturday.  Select items are marked down between 30-80% off of the original price, so I’m thinking it may be worth a trip over to see if there’s anything with your name on it.  As a bonus, you’ll see some new things in our cases too!

Wrap up Holiday Shopping with Anne Sportun!

Wrapped up that holiday shopping yet? Well, if not, I’ve got a great idea. How about stopping by for the Anne Sportun trunk show to find the perfect gift?!?! Things just wouldn’t be the same around here if we didn’t wrap up the holiday shopping season with an Anne Sportun trunk show.  It just wouldn’t be right. A definite customer favorite, Anne looks to nature for inspiration, striving to combine the precious with the everyday.  Anne’s colleague Suzanne will be in the store Friday afternoon, December 18 through the end of the day Sunday, December 20 showcasing the complete Anne Sportun Collection, including the new Vintage Bridal line and never seen before one-of-a-kind designs fresh from their Toronto Studio.  Join us for some holiday shopping — and, yes, it is ok to give yourself a gift! — at our last designer trunk show of 2015.