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For the love of chocolate: Family creates perfect bites

At Jonesborough’s Earth & Sky Confections on Main Street, chocolate is a year-long obsession — even if business manager and proprietor Rob Parks doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth.
“The chocolates are good. I like them,” said Parks of Earth & Sky’s confections. “But I don’t eat a lot of sweets.
“I guess that makes me the perfect person to run the store,” he added with a smile.
Parks has been running that store successfully for more than seven years now, offering Jonesborough visitors, as well as dessert lovers across the globe, a selection of 15 or more small squares of perfection that bear little resemblance to most shoppers’ idea of chocolate.
“The most common comment I get is ‘they are too pretty to eat,” Parks said. “But what I like, if someone eats one here in front of me, is to see the expression on their face.”
That expression is the result of one couple’s passion for chocolate and an entire family’s commitment to the process.
Parks and his wife, Debbie, moved to Jonesborough in 2000 to retire. Parks was a financial advisor, while his wife had worked in marketing.
Their two children were still in college, he added.
Their son, Chris, discovered a love of all things culinary — going on, after graduation from East Tennessee State University, to attend a French pastry school in Chicago.
“He met his wife there in class,” Park said. Now the pair work together to create the recipes and designs for Earth & Sky chocolates. Park’s wife creates and decorates the chocolates to her son’s and daughter-in-law’s specifications in the Parks’ commercial kitchen located in their home’s basement.
Rob Park sells the chocolates in the store.
“I’m supposed to be retired,” Parks said again, shaking his head. “There is constant friction between me being retired and continuing to run the business. But I love being here. I’m not here for the money, I’m here for the experience, I guess you would say. I love talking to people.”
He has also developed — sweet tooth or not — a passion for what they sell.
“We’ve made about 80 flavors in the past seven years, and the ones we have here are the ones that have sold the best,” Parks said. “They’ve gone all over the world. We don’t ship outside of the United States, but customers have sent them to Japan, Lithuania, even back to Switzerland from where the chocolate comes.”
This past Christmas, several boxes made it to the Governor’s mansion in Nashville.
“Every time that Kelly (Wolfe) goes to Nashville, he always takes down a box of our chocolates,” Parks explained. “(First Lady Crissy Haslam) emailed me and then we spoke on the phone. She ordered a bunch of boxes — bought an assortment of flavor — and had them shipped to Nashville.”
From Lithuania to Nashville, Earth & Sky chocolates have been making the rounds. Right now, Chris Parks and his wife, Laura Koerth, are in search of a new store location in Napa Valley — the Parks’ former home and Chris and Laura’s new home — where Earth & Sky chocolates can win over a whole new audience.
Parks said he can’t predict how long the family chocolate business will keep on rolling. “I have no idea,” he admitted. Right now, though, according to Parks, it’s still a sweet deal.
Earth & Sky will have a table set up at the International Storytelling Center for the upcoming Jonesborough Chocolate Fest, Feb. 13.