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Nevada Built: Familiar chocolate company with unfamiliar story

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Posted at 9:06 AM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-19 00:21:34-04

HENDERSON (KTNV) — M&M's are a favorite candy that many of us have enjoyed since we were kids. But do you know about their connection to Henderson? Ethel M Chocolates is a familiar name here in the valley, but it has an unfamiliar story about how and why it is Nevada Built.

Yes it looks good and, oh yes, does it taste good.

BEGINNING IN 1981

"Oh, that's why I can't work here," says 13 Action News anchor Todd Quinones. "Right? That's why I shouldn't work here," says Marketing Manager Lisa Vannerson.

Ethel M's story begins in 1981 with Forrest Mars Sr., the creator of M&M's.

"Forrest Mars Sr. retired from the M&M Mars Company, moved out to Henderson, Nevada, in search of just a leisurely lifestyle in retirement," says Vannerson.

HONORING HIS MOM

But Mars was apparently feeling restless.

He had one more endeavor he wanted to conquer. He opened Ethel M Chocolates in honor of his mother and the pieces that they made in their kitchen in Tacoma, Washington, when he was a child," says Vannerson.

"He said, I want to take my mother's recipes, there are 16 original recipes, I want to make them as high quality as possible and put them in a beautiful box for people to enjoy," says Vannerson.

LAX LIQUOR LAWS

"And that's Mother Ethel," says Todd. "Ethel. Yes, his is Mother Ethel," says Vannerson.

So we can thank his appreciation for his mom and also Clark County's lax laws at the time for bringing us these wonderful flavors.

"What would you like?," asks Vannerson. "You know, I have to go with the bourbon dark chocolate combination," says Todd. "Good choice. It's my favorite," says Vannerson.

"All right. Thank you, Vic. I appreciate it. So, this is probably what you think brought him here," says Todd. "You know, legend says that he thought again that there were loose liquor laws here in Vegas and he wanted somewhere where he could infuse liquor with chocolate," says Vannerson.

CACTUS GARDEN

"Here's to loose liquor laws. Nice, really nice. The bourbon, it's not too much. Offset by the chocolate. That's nice," says Todd. "Yes, thank you. I'm glad you like it," says Vannerson. "It's beautiful," says Todd.

Another big attraction here is the famed three-acre Cactus Garden, frequently lit up during the holidays.

"Mars Sr. was an avid gardener and so he started the cactus garden outside. There's actually a picture up front that shows, in the beginning, he was even selling small cacti for 15 cents," says Vannerson.

40TH ANNIVERSARY

But the focus here is and really always has been on making quality chocolates as Ethel M Chocolates right now is celebrating its 40th anniversary of being Nevada Built.

"This is what we call our classic collection. We put this in a round box sort of as an in honor to hatbox days," says Vannerson. "Exactly. I was gonna say it looks like a hatbox," says Todd.

"Then on the back, you can see these are all the original recipes that he and his mother made when he was a child. This is actually the one that you tasted earlier that you saw being made today," says Vannerson.

"I think my education has to stop right here. I'm going to eat my way out of a job if I stay here too much longer," says Todd. "I understand. Trust me," says Vannerson. "This has been great. Thank you. Thank you for the tour. Thank you for the history of Ethel, M's," says Todd.

CHOCOLATE TASTINGS

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2021, Ethel M Chocolates will be revealing new products throughout the year. They also have special events, like tastings where they pair their chocolate with wine. Tastings are available in person or virtually. There's even a special Father's Day tasting, pairing chocolate with beer.