He finally decided his future. Many years ago, his grandmother, Hazel Hatch, made hand-dipped chocolates to die for. She earned a reputation for her chocolates, which she gave to friends and sold at boutiques. His father kept the tradition alive. Steve and Katie decided to take it a step further by opening a chocolate shop. Katie learned the art of dipping chocolates — which she does in the basement of the shop. Steve handles quality control (which he says with a wink) and customer relations.
"It takes a fine hand to dip chocolates and someone who's patient," Steve explains. "I stink at it. Chocolate is temperamental. If it's too hot or too cold, it's not going to come out right." Why does it matter if chocolates are hand dipped or created on an assembly line? "If you run it through a conveyor belt, you can set the machine so fine that you get a thin layer of chocolate. With hand-dipped, each one is a different thickness. It makes for a better, thicker piece of chocolate."
It is no accident that their shop is located in a neighborhood setting in the Avenues. They wanted to be part of the community, a place where people would gather to visit while sampling candies, pastries, ice cream, hot chocolate, shakes and anything else you can create with cocoa.
"I am lucky," Steve says. "I get to meet so many people coming in. It's fun to see what everyone's backgrounds are."
Steve is a warm man, with a big smile and a firm, meaty handshake. If he is bitter about the curveball life has thrown at him, he doesn't show it. His hospitality and conversation are as good as his chocolate.
"You take what you get," he says. "Some of life stinks. I could sit in my house and feel sorry for myself and think life's unfair. You know, everyone pointing and staring at me. Or I can get off the couch and just keep going. It's OK to be afraid of things, but you still have to do it."
As for the attention he draws, he says, "Anybody who's different is going to be stared at. I can't fault people for that. But some of it — like someone saying, 'Look at the midget!' — that's the equivalent of the N-word. Look, it's obvious that Kate and I are a novelty. Some people come in here who just want to check out the little people. Whatever gets them in the door. The thing that brings them back is the quality of our product."
Later, Steve would email to me a video clip of a conversation between Rosie O'Donnell and her TV guest Chelsea Handler in which they blithely banter about Rosie's fear of little people. It is a clip that is so outrageously ignorant and profoundly inconsiderate that you wonder how it escaped notice. Imagine Rosie's reaction if someone discussed a fear of overweight lesbians.
"How does this portray little people?" wrote Steve. "If they had a fear of someone who is gay, black or any type of difference, would this discussion be considered offensive?"
Fortunately, Steve finds refuge and warmth in his little shop tucked away in the Avenues. He savors the banter with the customers, not to mention the rich chocolate that his wife dips with her hands.
"You have to take risks," he is saying. "You have to make your own life."
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