For Erika Henik ’90, chocolate is more than a craving — it’s a calling. The owner of Sweet on Vermont, Henik creates handmade chocolates that are distributed to gourmet markets and stores across New England. But while she now works out of a professional kitchen in Burlington, Vt., Henik’s chocolatier skills were developed right on Morningside Heights.
Courtesy Erika Henik ’90
While Henik was a student at the College, she met Linda Grishman, who was making sweets out of her apartment on 110th Street to sell at stores around New York City. Needing an extra hand with truffle production, Grishman asked Henik to work with her part time, and Henik’s love of chocolate making was born. “I knew nothing about chocolate when I started,” she says. “But I learned — I worked with [Linda] for four years and it was amazing.”
Henik, a psychology and Middle Eastern, South Asian and African studies double major, went on to work on Wall Street and then earned a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. But she kept in touch with Grishman, who later left New York City and founded Sweet on Vermont in 1996. Grishman occasionally contacted Henik to ask if she would again be interested in partnering in the chocolate business. “Fast-forward 25-ish years and it was finally the right moment for me,” Henik says. She decided to leave Wall Street behind and purchased the business from Grishman, who was ready to retire. Says Henik, “It was really nice — even though I bought her out it still felt like the transfer of a family business because we talked about it all the time.”
Five years later, Henik continues to grow the company, with a menu that includes barks, bars, peanut butter balls and brittles (the chocolate-dipped maple-almond brittle is especially beloved by customers, she says). All of Sweet on Vermont’s confections are handmade, so every day is different. Orders change based on New England tourism trends and what Henik calls “gift-giving seasons,” like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and the end-of-the-year holidays. One day could be spent dipping brittle and making chocolate bars, another focused on custom orders or crafting Vermont maple caramels.
“One of the things I love about this business is that it’s really hard to say what’s your favorite, or what’s anyone’s favorite,” Henik says. “There’s something for everyone.”
Published quarterly by the Columbia College Office of Alumni Affairs and Development for alumni, students, faculty, parents and friends of Columbia College.