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Sweeties

Sweet Noshings in Overton Square; Phillip Ashley Chocolates in Cooper-Young.

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Twenty-eight-year-old Leena Asbridge had been working as a field examiner for First Tennessee, but the travel schedule was getting to her. It felt like a good time to start a business: "When we would travel, we would look for somewhere to get dessert or candy and always end up at Fresh Market dipping into the jars of candy," Asbridge says. "Everybody loves candy."

Asbridge's sweets' shop, Sweet Noshings, offering an array of treats from the standard Hershey's brands, dried fruit and nuts, and chocolate-covered pretzels to RingDings and malted milk balls, opened in Overton Square a couple weeks ago.

"It's something truly unique to the Square," says Elizabeth Berglund, community relations director for Loeb Properties, which leases space in Overton Square. "The fact that someone like Leena, who had a very successful career in the corporate world, was so passionate about opening a candy store specifically in Overton Square really made us excited for her to be a part of it."

With custom-built cabinetry, benches, and salvaged furniture, Sweet Noshings has a modern industrial feel enhanced by down-home decorations. An old sewing bench nestled in the corner now functions as a candy stand; a chandelier with lime-green bulbs hangs not far from a suspended bicycle, along with various kitchen appliances that were spraypainted and hung directly above the glass jars of candy.

The candy may be the main draw, but Asbridge wants you to stay for the gourmet popcorn that is made in-house and comes in more than 20 flavors. "We'll have anything from caramel to vanilla and green apple, and then we'll have all the cheese flavors, then we'll have all the chocolate varieties — chocolate with Oreos, chocolate with marshmallows," she says.

Visitors can create their own bulk bags of candy and nuts, as well as design their own popcorn. They can come enjoy a cup of Ugly Mug coffee with a yogurt parfait, muffin, or oatmeal for breakfast. They can get a cookie or slice of cake too: "Everybody gets something," Asbridge says. "If mom and dad want cake and the kids want gummy worms, everybody can come to one place and sit down. We're not all eating yogurt and we're not all having cookies — we're picking what we want."

2113 Madison (731-446-8499)

For Phillip Ashley Rix, owner of the recently opened Cooper-Young boutique Phillip Ashley Chocolates, all it took was a taste of a subpar gourmet chocolate to make him think, Man, I can do better.

At the time, he was working with FedEx and had started looking into culinary schools, but it would be awhile before he set foot in a kitchen or even began playing with his own flavors. First, he did some reading — for two years. "All I did was study chocolate and study spices, study ingredients, how we taste, the zones of the palate," he says. "I never went after this as a hobby."

A graduate of Bartlett High School and Middle Tennessee State University, Rix moved away and spent more than a decade working in sales and supply-chain management for corporations including UPS, FedEx, and Apple, the latter of which brought him back home to Memphis in 2009. That same year, he finally got into the kitchen and began teaching himself how to blend his own flavors to create the sweets he had been dreaming of. He launched his online chocolate company Chocistry in 2009, later rebranding it Phillip Ashley Chocolates in 2012, after he left his job and went full-time with the brand.

His creations look like they belong in a jewelry box. They are hand-painted in vibrant eye-catching hues and infused with flavors of champagne, passion fruit, egg nog, ginger snaps — and even liquid smoke, as in his cobalt-blue Memphis BBQ chocolate.

The flavors are inspired by what Rix himself likes, including his two-layer Key Lime Chocolate. "I'm a big key lime pie fan, but no one ever thinks about the crust," he says of his stacked chocolate of key lime rum, marscapone, and graham cracker. "Each piece is communicating with you in a different way. That's why I say that every chocolate should tell a story. Every piece has a name, every piece has a different look. The flavors have a purpose," Rix says.

The chocolates are 35 cents a gram; gift boxes run $25 for a six-piece box. Rix wants customers to understand that they are paying for more than just a piece of candy. They're paying for an experience: "We use the best ingredients. We spend a lot of time making sure everything is beautiful. We don't just throw anything out here. We respect our customers enough to give them the best all the time. Consistency is our friend," he says.

The shop holds artwork by Kris Keys and Yancy Calvo-Villa, and are part of Rix's vision to have a rotating gallery of work by local artists. On Tuesdays, when the shop is open by appointment only, guests are welcomed with a glass of champagne. "We just try to be sexier in the way we present," says Rix, pointing out that even the boxes, which bear his signature, have magnetic closures. It's all part of his designer aesthetic.

"I don't want to just be another chocolate company. I don't want to just be 'Oh, the local Memphis shop.' We love being the local shop, but we're not just a local shop," he says. "How great would it be to say, 'The best chocolate you'll ever taste in the world is based in Memphis'?"

798 S. Cooper (207-6259)

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