Mother-daughter duo Jean Kroning and Jess Hoekstra have opened Jem’s Confections in the Kahler hotel downtown (20 2nd Ave. SW). I popped into their shop to get the low-down on the new storefront for this already-established business.
Six years ago, Jess and her mom Jean began renting a kitchen in Eyota to begin their gourmet chocolate company. They made chocolates and candies (hence the name Jem’s Confections) but continued to get requests for cakes and cupcakes. “Our product line has evolved with what people wanted,” says Jess. Now, while they do still offer candy and chocolate (Christmas was a big time for specialty chocolate sales
for the duo), the pair and their staff of four mainly focus on selling cupcakes at their Rochester storefront, which they opened in February.
2. They’re good at gluten-free.
Two or three years ago, the pair decided to take the plunge and come up with gluten-free versions of their cupcakes after many requests from customers. Because they make everything from scratch, they are able to alter their recipes to be gluten-free. The shop offers all of the same flavors as the regular cupcakes, with the exception of the cookies and cream frosting. “It’s fun hearing how excited people are,” says Jean.
3. There’s no such thing as a favorite cupcake flavor.
Neither Jess nor Jean could answer what their favorite flavor is. “Our favorites keep changing!” says Jess. “Sometimes they change daily.” What was a favorite the week or month before soon gets replaced by something new. “Jess comes up with new flavors so we can have it,” says Jean.
Speaking of flavors, Jess creates combinations based on different food items. “It’s fun to dissect what it is you’re trying to make (the cupcake) taste like and incorporate all the key elements somewhere in it,” she says.
4. They don’t take their happiness for granted.
Every Friday, Jess and her mom take all the remaining cupcakes in the shop and bring them to a patient waiting room or nurse’s station at Mayo Clinic. The first week they were open, Jess was walking downtown talking to her mom on the phone about how lucky they were, how she knows they’re living a lot of people’s dreams by living out their own dreams. “As we’re talking about this, I’m walking past Methodist Hospital,” she says. “I’m talking about how my life is fantastic right now. And I see this waiting room with all these people. You don’t know why they’re there, they could be having the worst day of their life. And here I am, just so happy.” So the very next day, Friday, they began their weekly tradition of surprising people with cupcakes to try to spread a bit of cheer and say thank you.
Stop in the shop to make your nominations. If your nominee isn’t chosen, it will remain in the drawing pool for another chance to be chosen.