“I remember going to his farm near Swea City,” Jensen said. “She was an excellent pastry chef. She made cookies, pies, meatloaf, a tuna noodle casserole. I have always equated great food with love, gratitude and happy feelings.”
Jensen loved to bake while growing up.
“I found great joy in that moment when I gave someone a perfect chocolate cake or apple pie and saw their face light up,” Jensen said.
Owner of Chocolate Season in Algona, Jensen majored in journalism and marketing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and worked in marketing at Woodhouse Auto Family after college.
“It was a good job, but I was not fulfilled,” she said.
Her husband, Brad, a photographer and graphic designer, encouraged her to do what made her happy.
For Jensen, it was baking, but she didn’t know how she was going to make a living from it.
She enrolled in culinary school and during an internship with LA Burdick Chocolate in New Hampshire, her dream of making chocolate began to come true.
Chief chocolatier Michael Klug, who is well connected with the European chocolate scene, helped her organize a chocolate tour in France, Italy and Switzerland.
Meanwhile, she and Brad moved into a two-room country school between Omaha and Blair, Neb., Brad’s hometown. She started creating and selling chocolate candies online through a website developed by Brad.
In Europe, she found the roots of what she wanted her business to be. In Avalon, France, a town of 200 people, she visited a five-generation chocolate factory. A Parisian candy stopped him dead and brought tears to his eyes.
“I loved Europe,” she said. “People are busy there like here, but they take 15 minutes to enjoy a cup of espresso and a candy and recharge. I didn’t feel the stress or the frenzy like here. I wanted to offer that to people. from here.”
She embarked on her business.
As sales increased, customers urged her to open a walk-in store. She and Brad looked in the Omaha area, but the real estate was too expensive. They decided to return to Algona, Jensen’s hometown.
The help they received from the Kossuth County Economic Development Corporation through their zero revolving loan fund and the business planning assistance from Iowa Lakes Community College has been invaluable.
“Growing up here, I know Algona supports small businesses,” Jensen said.
She wanted to create a shop where family memories are made.
They opened a small store on Dodge Street, which they quickly passed. They have purchased and are restoring the building where they are now at 16 E. State Street. The business continues to grow. A window exists for people to watch Jensen create his chocolate candies and baked goods. Brad’s photography studio is on the second floor. A huge illuminated chocolate sign hangs outside the building. There is a strong local clientele as well as visitors from other states and countries.
“We want to offer things that are outside the box,” Jensen said. “Our ingredients are expensive, but we hope people can taste the difference and the pride we take in our products.”
Jensen can use Venezuelan chocolate for one candy and Madagascar chocolate for another.
“Chocolate is a complex and mysterious mistress,” she said. “There is no other ingredient like this. It’s so cool how many ways you can use it. I want to create a little exotic vacation here.”
The Chocolate Season serves lunch with a menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and quiches. Everything is made from scratch and Jensen sources as many local ingredients as she can. She buys vegetables from Les Bodes and roasted soya from Les Chambres.
There are coffee drinks and hot chocolate – real steamed chocolate – smoothies made from scratch and plenty of desserts.
“Dark, milk or white,” is a question Jensen and her team ask customers unsure of which chocolate candy to buy. They are happy to educate people on their products.
They have rocky road caramel popcorn and many kinds of chocolate bark. Their homemade bark and applewood smoked bacon caramel are called Porker Valley in homage to Brad’s family farm. Ginger, nuts, dried fruits and cookies are other ingredients of the artisan bark.
Bakery products include coffee cakes, cheesecakes, pies, cupcakes, cakes and brownies which include “large amounts of chocolate, butter, cream cheese, peanut butter, homemade nuts and caramel ”.
His tuttles are toasted pecans and caramel dipped in dark, white or milk chocolate. Its fudge is creamy and dreamy.
Its handcrafted, artisanal candies, often described as edible works of art, are made in small batches with fresh herbs, premium liqueurs, French fruit purees, and couverture chocolate.
“I love the food so much,” Jensen said. “I hope it shows in the things I do.”
Individual items or gift boxes can be purchased. If they give Jensen an idea of what they want, she’ll put together a package. A bow completes every purchase.
Her future goals are a second store, and she would love to write a cookbook. Her 14-month-old son, Theo, inspired her to consider a children’s book on chocolate.
Jensen said his business is very family-owned. Her parents, her and Brad, her twin sister, her husband and her friends are helping her.
His first employees in Omaha were his sisterhood sisters Chi Omega. They also placed one of the first big orders, purchasing 150 candies for their alumni banquet.
She considers her employees like family.
“Without a family, the store wouldn’t be here,” she said.
Jensen said she would love if she could invite Grandma Hesvik, who died at the age of 16, to come into the store’s kitchen and cook something with her.
“When I bake, I feel very close to her,” she said.
The Chocolate Season is open from 7 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Visit their website at www.thecholateseason.com or call (515) 395-2462.