Kalamazoo chocolate shop expands its sweet spot to help those rebuilding their lives

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Kalamazoo series.

KALAMAZOO, MI – “Love Potion No. 17” is a dark chocolate truffle made with peaches, strawberries, Cacao pulp, marmalade, cinnamon, and bourbon.

It is garnished with a white chocolate heart and Hibiscus – and is a delight in the eyes of gourmet chocolate maker Dale Anderson.
A Valentine’s Day assortment at Confections with Convictions includes these truffles, which the Kalamazoo shop has dubbed “Love Potions.”The operator of Confections with Convictions smiles as he shows the small but lush candy and three others that he and his staff created after researching ingredients believed to promote passion -- just in time for Valentine’s Day.
“Don’t blame me for what happens,” he says, laughing at the sale of the four candies that were labeled Love Potions No. 13.7, No.14, No. 17, and No. 76.5. A customer in his small 116 W. Crosstown Parkway shop laughed and did not really want to ask what's in No. 76.5.
After 12 years in business, Anderson’s love of chocolate-making continues as does his love for people – particularly those trying to reset or rebuild their troubled lives.
“I started this because I was working with young people in the courts,” says Anderson, referring to youths up to age 18. He spent 16 years (1996 to 2012) working as a counselor in the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Court system and wanted to provide jobs for kids with felony records "because nobody would hire them. So their ability to work a legal job was diminished because they couldn’t get a job.”
He started Confections with Convictions in December of 2010.
After 12 years in business, Dale Anderson is selling gourmet chocolate shop Confections with Convictions in order to assure its longevity.That effort continues. The chocolate shop presently employs seven workers. But it is changing hands and the focus of its hiring is expanding.
“I’ll be 70 this year and I’m wanting to sort of plan for this to continue after I am gone,” says Anderson. “Jennifer Faketty has been an employee off and on for the last three years or so. And she is interested in buying the business. She is very active in the recovery community in Kalamazoo and she is going to be expanding the mission to include folks (of all ages) in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.”
Faketty, 51, is a Kalamazoo native who says she fell into daily drug and alcohol use at age 19 and did not expect to live to see 30. “I was killing myself slowly every day,” she says. But health issues ultimately convinced her to change and she has been clean and sober for eight years. She first visited Confections with Convictions to see a friend who worked there. During another visit, the shop needed help. She volunteered. And she has enjoyed the family feeling she found there.
“I was waiting for a job at the Post Office,” she remembers. “I got that job but I continued to work here (at Confections) part-time because I loved the environment. I love working here, the vibe and the feel of it. And Dale is super-awesome.”
As job openings occur, Faketty is looking to hire young people with criminal records as well as people of any age who are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. The place will be open to employing people  “who are in 12-step recovery or trying to be in 12-step recovery, trying to get their lives back together,” she says.
Recovering drug users often have trouble finding a job, holding a job, and keeping a home. So they can lose hope, she says. Faketty wants the shop to continue to “meet people where they’re at and love them where they are.” But it also wants to empower them and nurture their sense of responsibility.

“For me, greater and increased responsibility has brought a sense of independence that I never had,” she says. That was empowering.

Confections with Convictions, which opened at 116 W. Crosstown Parkway to provide jobs for young people with criminal histories, is expanding the focus of its hiring.Because of the people it hires, Confections has not had trouble finding workers. Although referrals from the Kalamazoo County court system and some other regular sources were hindered when courts closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, word of mouth has always been strong and continues to be strong Anderson says. During the height of the pandemic, he hired a couple of workers who were recovering from addictions, and that opened a pathway to others.
Word-of-mouth and mentions in social media have also helped the business. That is how Kelly Alkema and her 13-year-old son Kalten found the shop on a recent Tuesday afternoon.
Kelly Alkema and her son Kalten visit Confections with Convictions for the first time on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.“This is our first time (here),” she says. “We actually saw it on Kalamazoo Menu and we’ve been meaning to come by and are playing hooky from work a little bit.”
She was brokering a deal with her son about how many chocolates he could have before they got home.
Kalamazoo Menu is an online directory of locally-owned restaurants and taverns that was started in April 2020 on Facebook to help local businesses make it through the pandemic. It includes a page on Instagram. 
Of buying the business, Faketty says, “We’ve been talking about this for years. And it just happened when it happened.”
The deal was finalized on Jan. 5, 2023, but there are no plans for Anderson to leave. He continues at the shop to teach chocolate making and help Faketty run the business.
“We’re kind of partners at this point in moving the business forward,” he says. “I don’t have any intention of leaving anytime soon. But I didn’t want to have a health issue sometime and have the business just die or whatever. I wanted to make sure there was a plan to keep the business going.”
Faketty says she has worked in places where it seemed no one cared and where workers gave all their effort but the bosses did not embrace that or reciprocate. She says she’s also worked at places that had a family feel and where workers stayed in touch and supported one another. She prefers the latter.
“This was a safe place for me,” Faketty says. “It was a place to be safe and accepted and it was also a place where I could help because service is a huge part of recovery.”
Jennifer Faketty, who is assuming ownership of gourmet chocolate shop Confections with Convictions from Dale Anderson, describes him as the most compassionate person she’s ever met.She says Confections with Convictions has a respectful family feel. Employees often stay for several years and work successfully. Asked what she hopes for workers to take away from their experience at the shop, Faketty says, “A sense that they’re loved and cared for, and maybe they can pass that on to other people. A sense of hope, for sure.”
She also says, “Dale (Anderson) is like the most compassionate person I think I’ve ever met in my life. It’s easy to feel safe here. And a lot of people need safety.”

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Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.