Marcus Holly’s eyes surveyed the smorgasbord of sweets laid out before him, contemplating which chocolate treat he would choose.
“This is a tough decision,” said the Genoa-Kingston High School sophomore. “They all look so good.”
The selection: A powdered sugar covered brownie.
The confection selection quandary was a midday break Saturday for Marcus while waiting for his mom to get her hair cut at Reflections Hair Salon in Genoa. The sidewalks and roads were slightly caked in ice, but it was the icing on the cakes and cookies inside that beckoned Saturday shoppers to brave the elements.
The eighth annual Chocolate Walk, hosted by Genoa Main Street Inc., featured about 20 downtown businesses dishing out homemade chocolate delicacies in the spirit of the Valentine’s Day season.
Town residents and visitors alike dipped into shops, eateries and salons, but also a bank, auto parts store and optometrists office, while snacking on a bevy of tasty treats ranging from chocolate-covered marshmallows to double fudge brownies and chocolate pretzels.
“It’s a great excuse to go out into the cold on a Saturday afternoon and mingle with people in the community,” said Brenda Jarog, owner of Specialty Gifts.
The event drove in extra business to her store, which caters to women’s fashion and gifts, Jarog said.
“I found when there is free chocolate involved, it motivates men to get on their Valentine’s Day shopping,” she said
Most store owners provided their own homemade treats, but others had help from some of their most loyal customers.
“I made my own chocolate-covered marshmallows,” said Family Hair Care Salon owner Jennifer Kohler. “I also had a couple of dedicated clients contribute their baked goods to help the cause.”
Kohler has been operating out of downtown Genoa for the past 22 years, and has participated in each of the Chocolate Walks.
“You don’t need a reason to eat chocolate,” Kohler said. “But Valentine’s Day is just a great excuse.”
While some businesses chose to display elaborate spreads, others went the simple route, leaving dishes of mini candy bars at their registers.
“People come in and eat and go back out,” said Mustafah Ajeti, Genoa Café owner. “They are in a hurry, busy shopping, so we just offer a little treat for when they are leaving.”
Mike Groark, Cattywampus owner, incorporates the Chocolate Walk philosophy every day of the year.
“We have dishes of free chocolate in our store all year round,” Groark said. “Why only just Valentine’s Day or Chocolate Walk. Why not every day?”
The Chocolate Walk is just one of the monthly events planned by Genoa Main Street Inc. The sense of community it draws holds great appeal for two regular out of town attendees.
“We come to every one of these events,” said Bill Lovejoy of Elgin. “We never miss one.”
“I really like the feeling of a closeknit community,” said Cynthia Hill of Elgin. “Events like these really make you feel part of their town, even if you don’t live there.”