Decadent chocolates

Norman Love 2

Norman Love Confections

Sweet Treats: Satisfying that sweet tooth in South County

Published in South Fort Myers Community Lifestyles August/September 2014

Everyone loves a sweet treat every now and again (and again). Southwest Florida offers a few sweet destinations where individuals have an opportunity to indulge themselves with some incredibly decadent chocolates, confections and other tasty tidbits that will satisfy their sweet cravings.

The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory owner Steven Jones said he and his wife, Triston, opened the store at Miromar Outlets the Saturday before Memorial Day this year. The couple owned a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Omaha, Nebraska, for three years before moving to Southwest Florida.

Steven said after their lease expired, they started looking for their next destination when the corporate office shed some light on the location at Miromar Outlet.

“I jumped on a plane, came down for 24 hours and looked at the space,” Steven said.

sweet1The couple attended Missouri Western State University and participated in an entrepreneurial program through the business school that awarded them a store at the end of a competition. Jones said they had a benefactor who had given them a loan for five years for the store. The circumstances, he said was “as long as you get that loan paid off, the store becomes yours.”

The Joneses paid off the loan in less than two years.

“That’s how we got into the Rocky Mountain franchise system,” he said.

Although the Joneses are a part of a franchise, the Miromar Outlets store is a family-owned small business.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is known for its oversized pieces of chocolate.

Steven said after a gentleman accidently made larger pieces of chocolate and it sold, the habit stuck more than 30 years ago.

The store offers all types of chocolates, ranging from single pieces to packaged collections of sweets. Tempt your taste buds with truffles, bears on a stick, chocolate-dipped marshmallows, chocolate- dipped strawberries, English toffee and giant peanut butter buckets.

A favorite of his is the chocolate dipped potato chip – sweet and salty.

“It’s a salted potato chip that is dipped in chocolate,” Steven said of the salty sweet treat.

He said his wife’s favorite sweets are the peanut butter fingers because of the smooth and creamy peanut butter engulfed in a thin layer of chocolate.

Rocky Mountain also carried 12 flavors of hand dipped Blue Bell ice cream and more than 12 gourmet caramel apples.

In addition, Steven said they make all of the fudge in the store on a big marble slab the traditional, old fashioned way, as well as the caramel from scratch.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is located in Section F, next to the mall office and near Subway and the playground area of Miromar Outlets, at 10801 Corkscrew Road, Suite 189.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. For more information or to place an order or special reservation, call 239-949- 6757.

Norman Love Confections

Norman Love Confections

Norman Love Confections

Norman Love Confections began offering fine chocolates in 2001, when Norman Love first introduced his handcrafted chocolates to the Fort Myers community.

Love learned the craft of making pastries in France and was the executive chef for luxury resorts of The Beverly Hills Hotel and the The Ritz- Carlton. Throughout his 13 years as the corporate executive pastry chef, Love opened 30 hotel and resort pastry kitchens, both internationally and domestically, before deciding to enter into the private enterprise in 2001.

Norman Love Confections uses the finest ingredients to create more than 35,000 individually hand-painted, gourmet chocolates daily. The chocolates are shaped in hand-crafted molds and turned into true pieces of edible art.

sweet2Sharon Arnold of Gravina Smith Matte and Arnold Marketing and Public Relations said every year Love changes the signature flavors and often reintroduces some of the wellloved, retired flavors back into the rotation.

She said there are 36 signature flavors, including dark, milk and white chocolates, as well as elegant truffles.

“The newest flavors are bananas foster, caramel macchiato, creamy peanut butter truffle, French vanilla truffle, Spanish almond, nougat and tropical cream,” Arnold said.

If sugar-free is what you are after (a variety that is often difficult to find, or when it’s found, it’s pretty tasteless), you’re in luck; Norman Love Confections also offers a savory assortment to satisfy the taste buds of those who require less sugar in their diets.

These specialty items – and all other Norman Love confections – are available as wedding favors, gift baskets, engraved with corporate logos and customordered selections are now available, also, courtesy of Norman Love Confections’ specialty chefs.

The award-winning confection company also offers annual and limited edition holiday flavors.

Norman Love Confections BLACK, an ultra-premium line of intensely dark chocolates, has been added to the assortment of sweets. BLACK is made from chocolates from five of the finest growing regions of the world.

The first Norman Love Confections BLACK Sipping Chocolate, inspired by European traditions, can also be purchased to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Do you love the traditional treat, s’mores? In 2009, S’more Love by Norman Love Confections was launched. The tasty treat is filled with a crunchy fresh-baked graham cracker, light and fluffy homemade marshmallows and salted bourbon vanilla caramel.

sweet3Artisan Gelato by Norman Love will also gratify the cool and sweet desires, offers decadent sundaes like hot fudge gelato, salted caramel gelato, strawberry and yogurt, as well as peach melba.

Norman Love Confections Chocolate Salon and Artisan Gelato by Norman Love is located at 11380 Lindbergh Blvd., Fort Myers.

The salon is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m,. Saturdays. Artisan Gelato is open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

For further information call 239- 561-7215 or visit

Shell Point Retirement Community

Shell Point Retirement Community offering a vibrant, warm and active lifestyle

Published in South Fort Myers Community Lifestyles August/September 2014 issue

A continuing care retirement community for individuals 60 years old and up nestled within Southwest Florida provides an abundance of amenities and programs to help guide residents on their own personal journey to better themselves.

Shell Point Resort Services and Wellness Manager Mary Franklin said although there has been recreational activities since it became a part of South Fort Myers community in 1968, it has grown throughout the years.

The community of Shell Point, located on the Caloosahatchee River, at 15101 Shell Point Blvd., Fort Myers, has 2,300 residents, is owned by the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and offers independent living and longterm care.

Shell PointA new community-wide program, LifeQuest, kicked off in January 2013 and has been very successful since its inception. All of the staff has been trained on the mission of LifeQuest and the four restaurants have included a LifeQuest menu, which features healthy options.

“LifeQuest has been an amazing program for us,” Franklin said. “We have seen a lot of residents inspired to make a change.”

Since the program was such a hit for the residents, it is also offered for the 960 employees.

Franklin said with the LifeQuest program, they created a dedicated service and name that brought it to the attention of residents.

The program focuses on six dimensions: physical; educational; community and social; emotional; spiritual and natural environment. Those six dimensions are tied into everything Shell Point has to offer and is carried throughout the residents’ personal journey.

“We are not tracking anything,” she said of each of the residents’ journey. “Every person sets their own personal goals that they don’t have to share and their own personal journey towards a balance in life. That’s their MyQuest.”

Residents are provided with tools, programs and support from dedicated staff, so they can fulfill that personal journey.

One of those tools includes a LifeQuest booklet and a wShell Point coverellness assessment. The assessment questions help the residents take an honest look at themselves through basic and difficult questions. Once the test is finished it provides the residents with a visual of what dimensions and goals they should tackle.

“We give them a booklet to write the goals and keep notes themselves,” she said.

Shell Point publishes a monthly magazine, Shell Point Life, which highlights special programs or services, as well as an individual or group of individuals that are living the LifeQuest lifestyle.

The magazine has highlighted a couple who has lost 80 pounds combined, as well as Shell Point Singers, a group that comes together to put on three to four performances a year.

Franklin said the group was highlighted because they are working together and hitting numerous dimensions, as they practice and work towards a common goal.

The educational dimension includes the Academy of Lifelong Learning, which is offered throughout the year. There are approximately 80 programs every quarter that range from light-hearted programs, such as coffee with a neighbor that shares a unique story, to learning about computers. She said 80 percent of the programs are taught by their very own residents.

“It’s a chance for them to give and share their life experiences,” Franklin said.

Outside professors and guest speakers are also brought in to provide further information on some of the class topics.

The emotional dimension is tougher to tackle, Franklin said, due to individuals going through their own personal emotions. She said there are 10 support groups offered throughout the property that provide assistance.

“We see the support when they do go through a challenge in life,” Franklin said. “When they are engaged, they have such a big support group of friendships right here in the community.”

Some of those include a Parkinson’s enrichment group, a care-givers support group, memory care and salon and spa.

“We also have our case managers, which are there to help our residents with transitions of moving from place to place or any life issues that come up,” Franklin said.

The spiritual dimension includes the Village Church that offers weekly worship services, Bible studies and Season of Praise concerts. She said since residents represent many religious backgrounds and beliefs, the spiritual dimension embraces, strengthens and grows the residents’ own spirituality.

The physical dimension is tackled through 35 fitness classes offered every week.

Shell Point also offers Health Connection, which offers such specialty classes as balance and higher intense water classes. The new LifeQuest aquatic center has a 99,000-gallon main recreation pool, which includes two-lap lanes, a 23,000-gallon therapy pool that has an easy-access ramp and adaptable water chair.

“We also bring in outside doctors in the community here at Shell Point or the Fort Myers community to educate our residents on different physical issues,” she said. “We also have presentations by Shell Point staff on ways they can enhance their physical abilities.”

Community and social is everything fun that Shell Point offers for its residents. There are more than 60 activity groups ranging from kayaking to bridge and pinochle, which are all run by residents. There are also 21 social programs offered from going out to dinner, to holiday celebrations, bringing in musicians and hosting a weekly farmers market on property.

Shell Point also has more than 60 volunteer groups, which includes participation from more than 50 percent of its residents. Last year, 116,000 volunteer hours were turned into staff.

“Our residents themselves give themselves and it makes a strong sense of community here,” she said.

The last dimension, natural environment, is unique to Shell Point because of its proximity to the Caloosahatchee River. The community runs educational programs and classes, as well as offer garden plots that the residents maintain.

The community also offers such things as walking paths, birding groups and a photography club for the natural environment dimension.

“One of the things that makes us unique is we have our very own marina,” Franklin said, which includes the Shell Point boat Suzy Q 5.

The residents volunteer as the mates and narrators as residents and guests go out for trips on the water, while learning about dolphins, manatees and the mangroves. The boat ride also includes a lunch outing at a different restaurant.

Franklin said although they offer six dimensions of wellness and programs are offered under each one, they realize that going for a walk is truly only physical for one person, while being emotional for another.

“We try to pick the most obvious dimensions, but that is why it is such a personal journey,” she said.

The Shell Point community, Franklin said is full of active residents that are always having fun and smiling.

In addition to the community-wide program, Shell Point offers an abundance of amenities. Some of those include the Shell Point Golf Club, an 18-hole championship golf course; state-of-the-art Medical Center with full-time staff physicians; Salon and Spa Services; on-site hotel and on-site dog park.

Wicked Dolphin Florida Spiced Rum

Southwest Florida’s only distillery sets up shop in Cape Coral; tours available

Published in South Fort Myers Community Lifestyles February 2014

A Cape Coral distillery has created quite a following from individuals who enjoy savoring a rum created with all Florida ingredients.

Wicked Dolphin Florida Spiced Rum Owner JoAnn Elardo said, after traveling back and forth from New York to Florida, the idea of starting a distilling company took hold.  Many of her friends always asked her to bring something back from Florida, which usually meant oranges or perhaps a key lime pie.

“We thought this was a perfect thing,” she said of Wicked Dolphin Spiced Rum, which uses all Florida ingredients. Elardo said now people are returning home with rum when they leave Florida, rather than just the proverbial citrus.

She said it took a long time to acquire the Cape Coral location and build a distilling facility. Cape Spirits Inc. is located at 131 SW 3rd Place, near the Kohl’s plaza on Pine Island Road.

“We fired up the still in 2012,” she said, adding that they came out with their first batch in July 2013. “We took some time, perfected it,made rum and put them into barrels.”

A true family-like atmosphere, the company employes 10 staff members.

“It’s a family business, we want to keep it that way,” Elardo said. “We want to keep that look of a family business.”

Shortly after Elardo opened the business, she began looking into a Florida law that eliminated the opportunity to sell products from a distillery.

“We started here in 2012 and as we were cooking and making our rum, people were knocking on our doors asking for a tour,” she said. “I said we had to do something about this.”

A guild was formed after Elardo got in touch with an individual in St. Augustine to try and get a bill passed to allow sales at a distillery. That bill was Florida HB 347, which allows craft distilleries to sell to customers two bottles of spirits at the distillery.

“It is a start and it helps us generate some income to hire enough help to cover the tours,” Elardo said. “It has worked well for us in helping market our Wicked Dolphin Rum.”

Because of that bill, Elardo can now offer free tours at her Cape Coral facility, as well as set up tastings. A retail store is also offered on premises that sells everything from small barrels to glasses and apparel.

The hour-long tours and tastings are held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, on the hour between 1 and 4 p.m. The tour takes individuals through the entire facility while showcasing how Elardo and her staff makes Wicked Dolphin Rum, from start to finish. The tour provides a glimpse into the barrel room to show individuals how they are made and what it looks like inside. The bottling line is also showcased during the tour.

Elardo said they have volunteers who come in and bottle the rum, which ranges from two to three times a month. The volunteers show interest by emailing the company.

“The first 20 people come in and they get a free bottle of what we have done that day,” she said, adding that they have pizza on hand for the fun day of bottling and labeling.

She mentioned sometimes individuals have an opportunity to taste rum right out of the still during the tour.

“We started out doing tours with maybe 30 a day,” she said, adding that now they have about 100 people on each tour. “We get buses as far away as Boca Raton.”

The rum is made from products solely from Florida. Elardo said since 50 percent of the sugar cane grown in the U. S. is grown right here in Florida, they are using local sugar cane farmers to make their product.  They also use Florida oranges, various spices found in the Sunshine State and honey from Lehigh Acres.

“We have one of the best rums, nationally award-winning rums,” Elardo said.

The first rum, the Wicked Dolphin Silver Rum, which received a gold medal from the annual Miami Rum Festival and an award from the American Distillers Best in Category for white rum, is a premium silver spirit. Elardo said the white rum is made with 100 percent Florida sugar cane and distilled in small batches, barrel-aged to give the concoction a creamy vanilla flavor.

The second rum, Wicked Dolphin Spiced Rum, is referred to as “Wicked Coke.” The spiced rum includes notes of Florida oranges and honey, with a warm vanilla undertone and a spicy finish.

“Age rum is added to the blend for a smooth and mature taste,” Elardo said.

The company goes beyond just a good-flavored concoction. The most detailed thoughts and considerations even went into the bottle design. It’s narrow at the bottom so women can hold it with one hand, and the logo is embossed on the side, curved at the top for easy grabbing by bartenders.

The company plans on announcing another blend within the next month or so, she said.

If you can’t make it on a tour for a while, individuals can purchase the spirits at Publix, ABC Liquors, Total Wines, some smaller package stores and most local bars and restaurants.

“We are in over 800 locations throughout Florida,” Elardo boasted. “We are becoming known as Florida’s rum because we are strictly using Florida ingredients.”

She said becoming a part of the community has been the best part about opening the distillery in Cape Coral.

“We are having a lot of fun with the people of Cape Coral,” Elardo said. “I love Cape Coral; that is why I am here.”

For more information on Wicked Dolphin Rum or to schedule a tour call 239-242-5244 or

‘A place where the days are never long enough’

I am the reporter for the Community Lifestyle magazines that Breeze Newspapers publishes once a month. We highlight the amenities that are offered in different communities of Southwest Florida. For the South Fort Myers Community Lifestyles issue, Verandah was the community featured.

Verandah, Upscale Living in Old Florida Paradise

Published in  South Fort Myers Community Lifestyles Jan. 2014 issue

The Verandah, known for its professional and well-maintained golf courses, as well as “a place where the days are never long enough,” is currently undergoing renovations, providing more space for their fitness complex.

Community Association Manager Kym Bill said the Verandah has been in existence since 2003, with more than 900 homes completed out of the 1,700 that are estimated for the community.

The community, which sits comfortably on 35 percent of 1,500 developed acres, has townhouses, coach homes, small villa homes, single family homes and custom and estate homes in at least 20 different neighborhoods within the Verandah.

Jeff Jordan moved into the community in July 2004, just shortly after the first residents moved in, in April of the same year.

“It’s different than a lot of places down here,” he said. “With Verandah, it has more of the old Florida feel and style. Most of the communities have a Mediterranean feel to it.”

VerandahJordan said the community, which has spanning 100 to 200-year-old oak trees with Spanish moss hanging from them, has one side alongside the Orange River.

Director of Membership Sales Jay Severson said they have 36 holes of championship golf 0 the Old Orange course and the Whispering Oak course. One is designed by Bob Cupp, the other by Jack Nicklaus and his son Jack II.

“They are both championship golf courses, measuring more than 7,000 in length,” he said adding that the courses are for professionals to higher handicap golfers.

The community also offers dual-ended driving ranges providing golfers with a north-and south-side range.

“They can hit golf balls from either range,” he said.

The courses also offer a short game area, two practice putting greens and a full schedule of activities for golf members.

“We keep them busy during the winter months while they are here,” Severson said of the member events nine and dine, 18 and dine, men’s day and ladies day. “It is really a golf centered community.”

The full golf membership, which provides unlimited access to both golf courses, practice facilities, events, year round place, fitness center, tennis, pool, dinning and social activities, has a one-time nonrefundable joining fee of $15,000, excluding tax. Monthly dues are $583 including tax.

There is also a club membership for residents, which affords them access to fitness, tennis, pool, dining and social activities and limited golf involvement, for a one-time $2,500 nonrefundable joining fee, with monthly club dues of $106 including tax.

Members can enjoy the Verandah’s state-of-the-art fitness complex, which recently went through renovations to offer the latest and greatest in physical health and fitness. The facility doubled in size and new equipment was purchased by the new owners of the community, Kolter said.

“It’s added space as the community continues to grow and added space for additional classes,” Severson said of the complex.

The pool, also a part of the complex, recently went through renovations as well.

Bill said the pool expanded from a junior Olympic-sized pool to a resort-style pool. The newly heated oasis is filled with 150,000 gallons of well-chlorinated water.

“Our brand new resort-style pool has cabanas placed around it for enjoyment in the shade,” Severson said, adding that tropical foliage was also planted around the complex, for the perfect paradise.

Members and residents of the Verandah also have access to five fully lighted Har-Tru clay tennis courts, so residents and members can use them at night as often as they would during the day.

“We have tennis professionals and fitness director that take care of the programs” he said.

Jordan said he uses the tennis courts often.

“They are a lot easier to play on,” he said of the clay courts. “It is easier on your joints because there is a little give. It is not as jarring on your joints as playing on hard courts.”

The Verandah also has a full-service restaurant, Alligator Pear, and lounge, Jesse Fish, located in the River House.  The restaurant is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Oct. 1 through the end of May and is open for dinner on Wednesday and Friday nights from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“I do expect beginning in January we will expand to Tuesday,” Severson said of dinner service.

Jordan said the River House offers inside and outside dining overlooking the beautiful and peaceful river that winds through the community.

The Verandah also offers nine-miles of walking and biking trails and boardwalks its residents and members enjoy throughout the year. A dog park also graces the grounds of the community.

“I am a runner,” Jordan said. “With nine-miles of walkways, I can always find a different place to run, so I never get bored.”

He said the very scenic routes and paths are within the community along the main roadway, in the preserves and along the Orange River.

In addition, there are also free kayaks available for residents to use along the river.

“It’s a very popular feature, especially when the grandkids come down,” Severson said. “The Verandah offers a very relaxed lifestyle with a very friendly people.”

The Verandah is at 11571 Verandah Blvd., Fort Myers, three minutes from 1-75. For further information, a complete list of amenities, or for real estate listings, call 866-694-7199 or visit