Melody Boyster decorates
chocolate candies in the basement of Rosewood Farms Country Gifts
near Hartville while her husband, John, watches. The Boysters
carry on a tradition began by John's grandfather, handmaking
chocolate, which they sell as Grandpa Joe's Old Fashioned Candy.
The tradition began on a whim. In 1948, Joe Hawkins, a postal worker
from Arizona, moved his family to California for two months to attend
a candy making school. Having never seen the ocean before, his kids
played on the sands of Long Beach while Joe learned the art of making
After eight weeks, the family returned to Arizona and Joe went back
to delivering mail. But after work each night, he washed up and put
on a white apron before going to the kitchen. There, covered in flour
and fudge, he experimented for hours with sweet concoctions, recording
his recipes in a journal. In time, he taught his children and grandchildren
the secret recipes.
Joe dreamed of the day he could open his own candy shop with his family.
Unfortunately, he never saw that vision become a reality.
More than 50 years later, Joe’s grandson is living his grandfather’s
dream. Today, John and Melody Boyster make and sell “Grandpa
Joe’s Old Fashioned Candy” at Rosewood Farms Country Gifts,
a store nestled in the Ozark hills, 6 miles north of Hartville.
The comforting smells of freshly cooked chocolate and scented candles
fill your nose when you enter the door. Soothing mountain music plays
overhead, and a friendly face is always waiting to greet you.
Hawkins, known to the family as “Grandpa Joe,” started
the chocolate tradition in the 1940s. Tody, John and Melody
are carrying on a family tradition, passing on the skills to
their own children.
“When customers walk through that door, we want to make sure
it’s worth their drive,” says John.
From candy to coffee, candles to crafts, nearly everything in the store
is handmade by the Boysters. John carves the wooden crafts. Melody
molds an array of scented candles. Their daughter, Holly, prepares
coffee and frozen drinks. And the entire family pitches in to make
a wide assortment of chocolate candies.
“The candy’s made the way candy used to be made,” he
says. “It’s like no chocolate you’ve ever tasted.”
Every piece of chocolate is created from high-quality ingredients and
sold fresh. Like his grandfather, John is particular about his candy.
He almost never allows guests in his kitchen, and no one but the family
knows Grandpa Joe’s recipes.
“This candymaking isn’t something you can just read out
of a book and do in your kitchen,” says John. “It took
us six solid months to get it where we figured we could sell it.”
Country Gifts, housed in a 4,000-square-foot building, offers
a wide range of homemade gifts and treats.
In truth, the candy
was much longer in the making. Before opening the store in 2001,
John and Melody lived in Mesa, Ariz. John grew up on a dairy farm
while Melody was from the city. The high school sweethearts were
married after graduation and began their own dairy operation. At
the time, John drove a truck with an Arizona license plate that read “MILK.” Today, that plate is displayed
among other family memorabilia on a table in one of the store’s
A dairy farmer’s
income is never stable, so the Boysters began making and selling
wooden crafts on the side to earn extra money for Christmas.
“It just kept snowballing from there,” says John.
In 1990, the Boysters sold their farm and went into woodworking full-time.
They traveled the West, often staying away from home for weeks at a
time. Some days, they worked for 19 straight hours.
“At times, we’d work clear through the night and right
into morning,” says Melody.
Finally, John and Melody decided to move to Missouri in 1998 to
open their own business. They searched much of southwest Missouri
for a place to build before stopping at the store’s current
“It was the last place we looked,” says John. “When
we pulled in the driveway, we both looked at each other and said
this is where we’re gonna build.”
sign reading “Live well, laugh often, love much” is
appropriate for the Boysters’ approach to life.
They built a 4,000-square-foot
building and named their new business “Rosewood
Farms,” after the roses Melody often painted on John’s
woodworking crafts. Though the building sits 30 minutes from
a major highway, the Laclede Electric Cooperative members say
their rural location helps create a relaxed, enjoyable experience.
“We have people who will come in after a stressful day, and they’ll
enjoy a coffee and some chocolates,” says John. “There’s
a peace of mind when you walk in that door.”
After living in a city for years, Melody also appreciates the
rural setting. “There’s a slower pace of life, and there’s
real good people here,” she says.
The Boysters, who rarely advertise, rely on those people to spread
word about the store. Usually, locals are anxious to tell others about
the store after a single visit.
Jacklyn Shaffer of Norwood, a town 45 minutes away, found out about
the store from her cousin. Now, she’s a frequent customer.
“It’s definitely worth the drive,” she says. “Every
time I get extra money, I treat myself by going there.”
of Ava sniffs one of the homemade candles in the store. Melody
makes the candles in a small building behind the store.
During the store’s
Christmas Open House, which will be held Nov. 6-11 this year, nearly
4,000 people from all over the United States make the trip. At the
event, the Boysters serve homemade fudge, cookies and hot cider while
It takes a concentrated effort from the entire Boyster family to provide
enough food for so many people. John, Melody and their four children often
work late into the night to prepare chocolate and keep up with the demand.
Still, they often sell out.
“We just hope no one travels four or five hours from another state only
to find we’ve run out of chocolate,” says Melody. “Luckily,
that hasn’t happened.”
At the end of a long day, it’s the customers who really make John and Melody’s
job so rewarding.
“When they leave that door, they tell you thank you — thank you for
being here, thank you for the candy and thank you for taking care of us,” says
John. “That’s pretty special.”
Working together has long been the cornerstone of the Boysters’ business.
Back when the family was still running a dairy farm and woodworking on
the side, the children often pitched in.
fills a pastry bag with rich, dark chocolate from a machine
in the store’s basement.
Today, Holly, the
Boysters’ oldest daughter and a former teacher,
works full-time at the store. She runs the cash register, serves hot
and frozen coffee drinks and maintains the Rosewood Farms’ Web
Jessica, John and
Melody’s youngest daughter who still attends
high school, also hopes to work at the store soon. As the business
grows, the couple plans to bring in more of their children.
John, who still recalls fond childhood memories of eating homemade chocolate
as a reward for sitting still while his grandfather gave him buzz haircuts, believes
strongly in carrying on a family legacy. Leaving the business to his children
and continuing the tradition that began with Grandpa Joe is important to John.
“We want to make sure the chocolate part is passed on,” he says. “All
of the kids have a love for it, and that’s what is really neat.”
Country Gifts is located 30 miles south of Lebanon on Highway 5.
The store is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and
Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can call Rosewood Farms at (417)
741-6915 or visit the Boyster's Web site at www.grandpajoeschocolates.com.