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San Clemente Journal

It’s a Sweet Life at the Chocolate

Aug 30, 2006 09:33PM ● By Don Kindred
by Bill Koezer

Kim Maya of Schmid’s Chocolate poses with a popular favorite - a beautiful gift box with the choice of an original art postcard (suitable for mailing) by famed local artist, Rick Delanty. With a fetching smile, owner Kim Maya cooks and dispenses chocolates with expert skill and graciousness from Schmid’s Chocolates, located at the top of Avenida Del Mar, next to the Sun Post Newspaper office.
That smile is for real, too, because Kim says that it’s exactly what she wants to be doing more than anything else in the world. 
“I really do have the best job because I love seeing people be happy. Think about this… no one ever comes into a chocolate store if they are in a bad mood. Chocolates and sadness just don’t mix. Some people come in for a single piece of chocolate, and prolong mulling over their decision for many minutes. I love it. They’re happy anticipating that sweet morsel. I grin right along with them.”
Maya, however, knew virtually nothing about chocolate when she bought Schmid’s Chocolates 25 months ago from its founder, Herman Schmid. 
“I walked into his store right after I came to town and immediately just loved the whole idea of a little chocolate shop. He and I got to talking and I impulsively told him, ‘If you ever get ready to retire, give me a call.’ Well, a couple years later he did and here I am today.”
Just before that happened, though, you’d have never guessed that the globe trotting business woman would be anything other than the top executive that she had become as Director of Marketing for several medical equipment firms, some with up to 250 employees. She also had a knack back then for being with start up firms who soon were acquired by larger firms or went public themselves. 
“Sometimes their stock ended up being worthless,” Maya says, “but luckily I picked way more winners than losers.”
Both Kim and her husband, Bill, owner of his own medical equipment firm, held executive positions with similar medical firms throughout most of their careers, even though Kim was trained as an accountant. 
“When I was 23, fresh from the University of Indiana with my accounting degree, and working as an accountant at Ivac Corporation, I came down with - of all things - a radically severe case of the measles. Being young and broke, that illness took me ten years to pay off. But it taught me to cover all the important bases in business…like having proper insurance. Today, I make sure that even though my business is small, I run it like it was IBM.”
Attention to detail is a factor Maya mentions frequently, and it shows up in the almost perfect geometric organization of the chocolate in her display cabinets. How do you keep on top of dozens of different recipes that incorporate chocolate? 
“I have shelves of cookbooks, but mostly, I just play with different things,” Kim says. “Of course that involves a lot of trial and error, which means you, family and friends often end up eating your own mistakes rather than selling them, but it’s the best way to learn.”
Maya makes sure her products revolve around a proven core. 
“There are a few things that you must always have on hand, such as fudge and rocky road in the summer…of course that includes many variations such as nuts, crèmes, chews, turtles, almond clusters and so on. In the winter, people lean towards chocolate featuring amaretto-, bourbon-, and kahlua-flavored truffles.”
Having been a corporate marketing director, Kim periodically introduces special products that she thinks may become popular or have already proven so. For this summer, truffle flavors include fresh pear, bourbon vanilla and vanilla bean. She’s also offering a lavender tea truffle, blueberry crumb pie and a fresh strawberry chocolate bar.
Maya’s most unique marketing coup for summer chocolates, however, consists of a beautiful gift box with the choice of an original art post card (suitable for mailing) by famed local artist, Rick Delanty, included, and even comprising, part of the box’s cover. The chocolates inside are all top quality chocolate truffles, with a large molded chocolate in the middle.
Kim says, “I make sure to have some kind of special gift package for every major holiday…creating a gift that cannot be found anywhere else and that consists of the utmost quality in chocolate. I like seeing people take these and make others happy.”
Despite working in a chocolate store, Maya, cute and pert, somehow maintains a model’s figure. How? 
“Okay, here’s my secret. I always have breakfast, take a bag lunch that’s low calorie and usually have dinner at home,” she says. “Every Friday, though, is Pizza night for Bill and I.”
Does she work out? 
“I have to, since I allow myself one-only piece of my chocolate a day, but sometimes I ‘fudge’ and have two or three! That’s why everyday I power walk for three miles and jump rope for 15 minutes straight.”
Maya says her feet killed her from standing on the linoleum floor of the chocolate store for the first two months she was in business. “But then I discovered a clog-like shoe called 1803s at Sam’s Shoes down the street. They are like wearing clouds and my feet never hurt afterwards.” 
Raised her first ten years in Hagerstown, Maryland, and her second in Indianapolis, Indiana Kim worked 40 hours a week as a file clerk at BioDynamics to put herself through Indiana University. “Even though I was an accounting major, it was clear as a bell at BioDynamics that the marketing people there were having way, way more fun than the accounting people did. That was much of my impetus for getting into and loving marketing. 
“One thing’s for sure, though. I never dreamed that marketing could ever be as much fun as it is when you own your own chocolate store.” b