Joy King and Gene Green continue the family tradition at The Chocolate Tree
By Lanier Laney
When Chocolate Tree founder Pat Green retired, she didn’t have to worry that Beaufort’s iconic candy store would pass into the hands of strangers. The new president, Joy King, is Pat’s youngest sister and has been at the store since day one 32 years ago and the Production Manager Gene Green is Pat’s son and literally grew up in the store. He’s been making chocolate there since high school so there have been absolutely no changes in their high quality chocolate formula or how it’s made. In fact, many of the folks making the chocolate have been there for decades.
Says Pat Green, “The shop was my baby and you don’t want to hand your baby off to a stranger. I know that Joy and Gene are going to do a great job. I feel totally confidant that they can carry on the tradition.”
Before becoming president and owner a year ago, Joy King had been the general manager of The Chocolate Tree for 25 years. The Providence, R.I., native came to Beaufort at an early age to visit her sister Pat who had been transferred here earlier from Providence with her Marine husband, Norm. Joy ended up meeting and marrying a Marine in Beaufort, Cliff King, and they have been here for 36 years. Their sons, Josh and Cliff, have also worked in the store.
Says Joy, “I’ve always loved the creativity of producing a product you could be proud of. At The Chocolate Tree, we always try to maintain a certain quality in our confections by using only the finest quality ingredients while keeping up with the newest trends.”
This is where her nephew Gene, the production manager at the store since 2004, comes in. A few years back he was sent to study at the Pulakos Candy School at Gannon University in Pennsylvania. And he also has a degree in Fine Art from USC. The art training gave him a foundation for the creative thought and design that goes with confection.
Gene said, “I came back to Beaufort to take over at the store when my mom brought up the idea of retirement. I wanted to make sure that The Chocolate Tree came into the next generation and all of my mother’s hard work prevailed. This store has become a landmark to this community. We have worked very hard to keep up the high standards of our product.”
Gene loves working at The Chocolate Tree. “One of the best things about making the candy, is that I have the pleasure of seeing people enjoying our hard work. Whether you are 1 or 100, there is something magical about chocolate candy, especially ours. We like to say that something from The Chocolate Tree is always ‘a gift in good taste,’ ” said Gene with a smile.
Gene met his wife, Amy, at USC and they have been married since 2006. They have two daughters, Cadence and Morgan.
The Chocolate Tree opened in 1980 and became an instant Beaufort landmark for natives and tourists alike. Pat Green had originally started making chocolates for PTA bake sales. The parents who bought the chocolates were amazed by her handiwork so she decided to open a store with the help of her sister Joy. Now Gene says, “Many people in this community don’t remember a time when there was not a Chocolate Tree. Teachers are taking their classes and children on tours of our facility that they themselves took when they were in school.”
Adds Joy, “This business is wrapped in celebration, for the most part, holidays, birthdays, a treat for doing good in school or just enjoying your vacation. The faces on the children, the wide-eyed expression when they visit for the first time, the delight in the parents eyes as they watch their children’s faces. It is just a happy place to be.”
I always like to think that Valentine’s Day is better in Beaufort than any place else thanks to The Chocolate Tree. If you want to instantly get in the Valentine spirit, I suggest you make a visit to see all the wonderful heart-shaped delights on display. Special thanks to the Green and King families and all the hardworking employees at The Chocolate Tree who have brought so much to Beaufort over the years. Here’s hoping you have the best Valentine’s Day ever!