By Kim Harbour
West Virginia main streets are like a box of assorted chocolates – each shop a delight to savor, says veteran chocolatier Brenda Casabona.
Casabona of DeFluris’ Fine Chocolates lists her neighbor businesses in Martinsburg’s historic district, something to suit every taste. “There is the great fresh Mexican place: Habañero’s. And a long-time Chinese restaurant, Peking’s, just moved into a new space. Patterson’s drug store has an old-fashioned soda fountain. Queen Street Gallery features local and international artists – and its owners also have a West Virginia glass store nearby. Flowers Unlimited is comparable to any high-end metropolitan florist….”
In 1998, Casabona and her husband, Charlie, wanted to expand the chocolate business they started in Vienna, Va., to focus on wholesale distribution. A life-long Washingtonian, Casabona had never considered moving to West Virginia until a Martinsburg real estate broker contacted her about property in the city’s historic downtown.
The Casabonas looked at the map. Central in the Mid-Atlantic and convenient to major interstates, Martinsburg looked ideal for getting their product out and their supplies in. Then, after they visited a few times, they became so enamored with the community and its people that they decided to move their home here, as well as their business.
The Casabonas bought a derelict McCrory’s five and dime and renovated it for candy production. Two blocks away, they bought an old Victorian as their new home. Now, they walk to work.
DeFluri’s growth is a true success story for Martinsburg and the state. The business picks up wholesale accounts through Tamarack, where people purchase the chocolates as gifts. Casabona said she goes to wholesale trade shows, pursues Internet sales and does a lot of Web market research to target new customers.
Because of technology, she noted that many businesses no longer need to be situated in a particular location. This gives entrepreneurs more flexibility to balance work and living.
“Imagine! If you’re not commuting two hours a day – that means you have two hours more to spend with your family, your hobby, your neighborhood or growing your business!”