Side business leads to a sweet deal for hairdresser - The Buffalo News

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Side business leads to a sweet deal for hairdresser

Sure, there was the game. The chicken wings. Now, maybe, a hangover.

But the Super Bowl is mostly about selling stuff.

Pepsi. Budweiser. Chobani.

And then there’s Mary Ann Hess and her chocolates.

Hess, 54, is a barber at Bucky’s on Hyde Park Boulevard in Niagara Falls. She’s been cutting hair since she was 15.

But when her grandson became sick with Crohn’s disease eight years ago, she was looking for a little extra money to help him. She had been making chocolates for years, whipping up candy trays for friends and family at the holidays.

Why not sell a little on the side?

She got the idea to do Niagara Falls. She named her business Niagara’s Honeymoon Sweets and made chocolate medallions with the famous waterfalls on them. About the time that Nik Wallenda took his walk, she added a daredevil candy bar depicting a tightrope walker crossing the falls.

The candies are popular for weddings and people who want to take gifts from back home when they travel.

Then she got a call. She didn’t know it at the time, but it would send her on a path to the Emmys, the Golden Globes and the Super Bowl – all in the last year.

At first she ignored the messages. The caller said something about taking part in the Obama inauguration, and Hess thought it was a joke.

She makes all her chocolates by hand on nights and weekends when she’s not working in the barbershop.

“Really, who calls somebody so little?” Hess recalled thinking.

But the call was legitimate. The New York State Society was looking for local food producers to show off their products at their first inaugural ball.

Hess went all in, hauling her chocolate medallions and edible picture frames of Niagara Falls daredevil Annie Edson Taylor to Washington.

“We were treated like royalty while we were there,” Hess said.

She got some press. Then she got a few more calls. She was asked to hand out her candies at the Daytime Emmys, where she said she met Betty White and Alex Trebek.

She returned to L.A. for the Prime Time Emmys, and then, on Sunday, she and her husband were at MetLife Stadium, handing out her handmade chocolates at a pre-game party for celebrities and team bigwigs.

“I just keep pinching myself and saying, ‘Really?’ ” Hess said Friday after taking the train to New Jersey.

Hess isn’t quite sure where all this celebrity hobnobbing will take her, but she’s enjoying the ride while it lasts.

So are her friends and customers back at the shop.

“I’ve had customers at the barbershop bring me Niagara Falls paraphernalia so I can set that on the table; so it’s kind of like a community helping me get going,” Hess said. “I feel like I’m bringing Niagara Falls with me.”

Story lines from the Super Bowl are usually about big personalities – superstar players and their big mouths, megastar celebrities and the parties they attend, super-sized spokespeople and the products they hawk.

There was plenty of that on Sunday.

But, amid all that glitz and glam, there was a sweet little tale about how a hairdresser set out to help her grandson by making chocolates and ended up at the big game.


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