Maria Devries is the newest owner of The Chocolate Bear in the Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall. Photos: Adrian MacNair
For as long as there's been the Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall, there has been a chocolate shop inside it, and for the past 30 years the name of that shop has been The Chocolate Bear. Best known for its mix of Belgian Callebaut chocolate and plush Gund bears, the store was taken over by a new owner in October.
"Being from a Dutch background you've got to love chocolate," says Maria Devries. "And I like quality chocolate and that's what this shop has."
Maria had been a long-time patron of The Chocolate Bear and an even longer resident of Tsawwassen.
"When I first moved here as a teenager, nobody locked their doors. It was quite the community. Almost everybody knew everybody."
And everybody knew The Chocolate Bear. Indeed, two of her daughters worked for the shop over the years.
Maria has carried on some of the traditions from the shop, such as the selling of high quality Belgian chocolates, Belleek Pottery from Ireland and, of course, teddy bears. But she's also added her own personal, discerning tastes to the chocolate store.
The shop now sells artisan sweets from Vancouver-based companies such as Mink Chocolates with seventy percent cocoa and no additives, Wishing Treats gourmet all-natural vegan artisan candy, and fair trade certified Rogers' Chocolates.
"What attracted me to some of the things I've brought in is that they're produced locally," says Maria. "It's nice knowing you've got a quality product that's made locally with well-sourced ingredients from companies that care about what they make."
The Chocolate Bear isn't just about chocolate. They sell Wedgwood fine china and porcelain, Turkey Hill Maple Syrup from Quebec, Royal Doulton from England, Canada 150 collector items, and much more.
Beyond the attractiveness of the store, Maria likes the fact it has a strong brand recognition among the many people who have visited over the decades.
"People grew up coming here with their parents. Now, they're grown up and they're bringing their kids. I get people from out of town come in here and it's nostalgic for them. Some of them get emotional because they came with their grandmother or grandfather. So it's got a beautiful history."