My Brigadeiro brings more chocolate to Main Street

by Erin Lee | 1/7/15 8:31pm

01.08.15.news_.my_.brigadeiro_Eliza-McDonough
My Brigadeiro owner Ana Paula Alexandrescu moved into the storefront after running the business from home.
by Eliza McDonough / Eliza McDonough

A large display case filled with a dozen varieties of chocolates welcomes customers upon entering My Brigadeiro, a chocolate shop that opened on Hanover’s Main Street on Jan. 3.

Store owner Ana Paula Alexandrescu began her online business two years ago from home, and although she has sold her chocolate in local stores — such as Dan and Whit’s General Store in Norwich and the Hanover and Lebanon Co-Op Food Stores — opening a store is something she always had in mind.

Alexandrescu’s business specializes in making brigadeiros — soft, fudge-like Brazilian truffles — and offers 39 different varieties that change daily in the shop. Each brigadeiro flavor falls into one of seven categories: classic, fruits, fancy, nuts, liquor, fun and holiday.

My Brigadeiro is Alexandrescu’s flagship store, but she said she hopes to expand her business in the future.

The storefront previously housed the Wine Crate, which announced it was closing last September after two years in business.

Town manager Julia Griffin said that the location of the space could make it difficult to gain traffic.

“The location she’s going into right now has been particularly challenging because it’s subterranean,” she said. “A business that goes in there must really have a following of folks that are loyal to the brand, so it’s all about signage and social media promotion and those sorts of things. This business has quite a loyal following, so our hope is that it’ll do well in that location.”

The Hanover shop will now be the site of 75 percent of the business’s handmade chocolate production, while the remaining 25 percent will continue to be made in Alexandrescu’s studio in Norwich. In the shop, customers can watch the handmade brigadeiros being rolled and decorated behind a glass divider.

The tourism and student activity surrounding Dartmouth drew Alexandrescu to open shop in Hanover, rather than Norwich or elsewhere in the Upper Valley.

“It’s a great area — it’s one of the main places around the Upper Valley where everybody comes to eat to try different things, and it’s close to where I live in Norwich,” she said.

Though The Chocolate Shop, a store located on Lebanon Street, sells similar products, Alexandrescu does not believe there is much competition between the two stores.

“I feel like there’s plenty of space for all of us to coexist here,” she said. “My product is unique and different, so it stands out by itself.”

A representative from The Chocolate Shop declined to comment.

Store employee and Lebanon resident Brandy James said that the reaction in the past week has been overwhelmingly positive from customers.

“I hope that the town embraces this shop and loves it as much as we love to make them,” James said. “The feedback that we get from the customers that walk through out door and on our Facebook is just superb, and I think that’s what we strive for.”

Alexandrescu started making brigadeiros when she was growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and continued to make them for her three children on their birthdays, she said. Her oldest daughter Gabby, who also works in the store, was diagnosed with scoliosis two years ago, and one of Alexandrescu’s friends suggested she make more of the chocolates to take her mind away from the stress.

“I never though it would be so big, the way it is now,” Alexandrescu said. “Every time I see a customer leave the store happy and loving my chocolates, that’s what makes me happy. That’s the reason for me to be here.”

While some students are excited for the new store, others expressed concern over the price point. A nine count premium box of brigadeiros costs $21.65, according to the website.

Preeti Rishi ’18 said that she thinks the chocolates will be perfect as gifts, especially around Valentine’s Day, but is unsure about how popular the store will be among students, as it has to compete with Morano Gelato and The Chocolate Shop.

“I hope it does well though, because the chocolates are really good,” Rishi said.

Heidi Ahn ’18 said she was concerned about the high prices of the desserts and the location of the store, adding that it was slightly difficult for her to find.

Barry Yang ’18 said he thinks Dartmouth students would go because it offers something different from the other stores in town and “carves out its own niche.”