Meet Bailey Kasten, owner of Artisan Confections. In October, Artisan Confections opened their new chocolate shop in McLean. “We want to spread the word that McLean has a European style chocolate shop in town. If you want to get chocolate that was just made, you have a place right here in McLean.”
Getting into the Chocolate Business
A long time ago, my husband and I made the chocolates for fun, as a hobby. We gave them to people and [they] would say that we should sell these. We just started making our own recipes and teaching ourselves. One day we made the jump…, we trusted our crazy idea and decided to take it from a hobby to a business. We started doing tastings and events and fast forward — now we have two chocolate shops. We have one in Arlington, which we opened in 2009 and we opened the McLean location on October 28, 2023.
We have this great business that we absolutely love — we have kids and they love having the chocolate shop in the family. So we get to be part of the community in a special way. And chocolate itself is just a wonderful thing to make, create, sell and interact with because people love it. There’s never a dull moment. And it’s never a grind even when we’re very busy. It’s always something fun and positive, even when we are at our busiest season, which is around the holidays like Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
Why McLean for Artisan Confections
The Arlington shop has been here for quite some time and is well established. We’re so lucky with our Arlington customer base. But my husband and I live in McLean and our kids go to McLean schools. We moved to McLean in 2012. We just felt our town could use something fun and we could use more shops, more food places in town. All my friends talk about it all the time, how we need more fun stuff in McLean. We thought the chocolate shop would be something just like that, something for families, gifts, and we could have classes, courses, or parties.
We decided to expand to McLean and in fact, I had a customer who asked me what my market research was. We did some research but honestly a lot of it comes from living here. And having a good feel for our town, what would do well here. And having the confidence that McLean would be a great place to expand Artisan Confections.
The McLean [location] is easy to get to… and it’s a different environment than Arlington. Our Arlington location is so wonderful, it’s walkable. It’s got that, browsing around town vibe. McLean offers a super convenient place [where] you can easily park. There’s other gift shops near us like Preppy Pink Pony [for] example, so it offers different sorts of experiences as well.
Top Sellers at Artisan Confections
The bestseller is our sea salt and salted butter caramel. I think [it is] the most popular single item that we make. We also have a version of them for Valentine’s Day. It has a red heart with caramel inside. The Tahitian Vanilla Bean is popular, it is a classic flavor. Everyone loves our Raspberry and Fresh Mint as well. What’s really popular specifically in McLean which I find interesting are our fruit and chocolate items. I think we just have a lot of chocolate and fruit lovers here. McLean’s specialty, what I’m seeing is a love for our dipped, chocolate covered orange peel. And we have chocolate covered ginger and mango and it’s really popular especially in the McLean location.
Everything we sell we make ourselves, it’s all freshly made. It’s all made within days when you come in. We have a full kitchen in Arlington and we have a full kitchen in the new McLean shop as well, where we make everything. We have an open window where you can see the kitchen from the outside. We thought people would really like to watch chocolate being made. We expect it to be a free show in some ways. And you can see that we are making the [chocolate] ourselves. We have three full time chocolatiers, if you count my husband as well. We make everything in house and when you come in, you can often smell whenever we’re making chocolate caramel, caramel smells really good. It’s a very pleasant experience [to walk in] and smell that.
Out and about in McLean
My favorite thing is to go walking on the Pimmit Run Trail. I love walking from the neighborhoods to downtown. My son and I do the McLean 5k every year together, which is really fun. We just enjoy feeling like we have a real community to be a part of, I love McLean. McLean feels like even though you’re so close to DC, you still have that feeling of a community. My neighborhood is really close, we all know each other. McLean has a lot of things for my kids: they play basketball, my little son is in the Little League as well. It’s a great place to be in.
Something that is very unique towards the McLean shop, is that when we designed it, we made that kitchen on the side open and visible so that we could do classes and private events there. It’s kind of like our classroom and workshop. We built it ourselves so it’s true to how we specified it. We of did it with [the] vision that McLean would be a place where we can host chocolate making classes. The people in McLean seem really hyped up and excited for taking classes. We are also planning to offer gelato this summer, since we feel that there is a need here in McLean.
Interview by Dania Reza: Reza is the social media content curator for McLean Today. She is a senior at McLean High School and is the design editor-in-chief of her award-winning school news magazine, The Highlander.
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