After a series of twists and turns on the road, the Old Bag Factory came into my view near the outskirts of Goshen.I took my first steps on the mismatched red brick path and turned left to enter the old factory building. Multiple signs with arrows guided my way to my destination; at the end of the hallway, the Olde Country Confections Chocolate Factory greeted me with a sweet smell. Stepping in, my senses were in heaven.
With a brown Hershey’s cap on his head, Daniel Robert Spence, the owner of the Olde Country Confection Chocolate Factory, gave me a sample of his chocolate truffles and a warm welcome. The 64-year-old established his chocolatier dream at the Old Bag Factory only about a year ago.
Chairs, weathered from wear, were set up in the kitchen for our interview. As I set up, Spence explained his chocolate creations in intricate detail.
“My favorite is the dark Mayan truffle,” he said.
The Mayan truffle is a chocolate ball dipped in dark chocolate ganache, with a sprinkle of cinnamon. As I eagerly gobbled one up, Spence came out with a spoon dipped with, well, more chocolate ganache. Temptation too great, I licked the spoon clean and had a little taste of paradise.
As we shared the sugary delights, Spence also shared parts of his life.
Unlike the treats he creates, his life story wasn’t as saccharine. Spence grew up with seven siblings, but was separated from them as a child. His father died when Spence was a toddler and his mother suffered a mental breakdown. Passing through foster home to foster home, he had a nomadic life until he was adopted by the Milton Hershey School, a school founded by the King of Chocolate himself, Hershey’s Chocolate owner, Milton Hershey.
But Spence didn’t partake in chocolate-making during this time, but instead lived his childhood with a married houseparent couple. Later, he began to work for a German chocolatier. This man became Spence’s mentor and a major influence in his love for chocolate. Eventually, he passed his secret chocolate recipes on to Spence.
“When I left Milton Hershey school, my first job was at the York Cone Company, which makes the York Peppermint Patties,” he said.
When I asked if Spence had any other interests in any other trades, he shook his head and replied, “No, I never have. It was kinda in my blood when I was 11 years old.”
Spence visited Goshen as a tourist about one year ago.
“James, the new owner of the Bag Factory, met me and we talked,” said Spence. “He had heard about my Hershey connection…a month later, I was opening this shop.”
The shop is supposed to be Spences’s retirement job, but he has been working full time,
“I work 10 hours a day, but I enjoy it,” he said.
His warm personality radiates through his work. Having listened to his story, as short and sweet as our conversation was, I found myself being inspired by his positive outlook.
At the end of our conversation, his eyes crinkled into crescent moons and he said, “I’m trying to sweeten the world.”
And with a hearty laugh, “At least Goshen anyway.”