"Would you like to try our chocolate?"
The offer comes from a beaming, apron-wearing woman greeting customers at the door of Angell & Phelps, a downtown Daytona Beach mainstay since the 1940s. She carries a basket on her arm, and shows off its contents with a wave of her hand: nonpariels, chocolate-covered pretzels and, in the center, a house specialty – dark chocolate-dipped potato chips.
When free chocolate is offered just for stepping through the front doors, it's hard to imagine that the experience can get any better. But consider the chocolate-making tour, where hundreds of visitors a day gather around glass windows to watch candy-makers dip, fill, mold and decorate the chocolates on display in the gift shop.
At the end of the tour, the guide emerges with – you guessed it – more free samples.
Daytona Beach, located on the Atlantic Coast of north central Florida, about an hour east of Orlando, is best known for its appeal to beachgoers, motorcycle enthusiasts and auto-racing fans. But Angell & Phelps offers a wholly different Daytona Beach experience, with only the molded-chocolate racecars and bikes in the gift shop connecting the chocolatier to the delightful beach town outside its doors.
The shop is on Beach Street, downtown's main drag. The tours are offered six times daily, but in between, opportunities abound for grabbing lunch. Right next door, a restaurant that is separately owned but bears the same name (Angell & Phelps Café, 156 South Beach Street, 386- 257-2677), offers salads, wraps and sandwiches (plus a full bar) for those waiting to get their chocolate fix.
Angell & Phelps was founded in 1925 in Mackinac Island, Mich., by two women, Riddell Angell and Cora Phelps. At the beginning of World War II, they moved their business to Daytona Beach, where it has remained ever since. Dr. Alvin Smith purchased the company in 1983, and today it is operated by his son Chuck.
The chocolate factory manages to show off its inner workings for 500 to 1,000 visitors daily. Offerings include truffles, fudge, chocolate-covered cherries and molded chocolate in just about any shape imaginable.
A chocolate bare foot – looking beach-ready – is among the company's top sellers. The words "Daytona Beach" are scrawled across the foot, almost always in the handwriting of Chuck Smith himself.
Note: The chocolates received a special honor this year when they were selected for the "swag bags" at ESPN's ESPY awards, honoring the top sports stars and sports moments of the year. The 155 boxes of chocolates featured some of Angell & Phelps' most popular items: ganache-centered truffles flavored with amaretto, caramel nut, Grand Marnier, mint or raspberry.
If You Go
Angell & Phelps
154 S Beach St.
Directions: From Interstate 95, take Exit 261A and travel five miles west on U.S. Highway 92/International Speedway Boulevard. Turn right onto South Beach Street.
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; closed Sundays. Free tours are offered at 10 and 11 a.m. and 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m.
Amy Wimmer Schwarb has spent her professional career vacillating between the coasts of Florida and her home state of Indiana, spending several years as a staff writer and editor at the St. Petersburg Times and several more as a magazine editor in Indianapolis. But in the end, Florida won her heart: She is now a full-time freelancer based in St. Augustine.