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The Sweet Life in Ashland

Southern Oregon Makers: Deena Branson of Branson’s Chocolates

Travel Southern Oregon

By Eddie Wallace

Photographer Jak Wonderly

For confectioner Deena Branson, owner of Branson’s Chocolates in Ashland, there was always a dream that she would someday own and operate a successful small business, but it wasn’t until 2005 that she dared to imagine turning her passion for creating delectable chocolate confections into that business.

Fast forward to 2018, when the talented and endlessly creative lifelong Ashland resident has a thriving wholesale and retail business, featuring only the best Belgian chocolate that goes into such mouth-watering treats as Anjou pear creams, lavender squares, wasabi ginger squares and blood orange creams, as well as your more standard treats like toffees and caramels.

After spending ten years in the late 90’s and early aughts learning everything there was to know at the Ashland Fudge Company – she even trained two sets of new owners during that time  Deena and her husband Kevin leapt at the chance to purchase the equipment and recipes when the company went out of business in 2005.

Since that time, through dogged determination and countless hours of hard work, Branson’s Chocolates has steadily grown its business and burnished its reputation as Ashland’s only locally-owned, locally-produced chocolate business, culminating in the opening of their retail space in 2014.

The early years of the business were spent working out of a production facility in a business complex, producing mostly for wholesale customers. Ashland’s Paddington Station and Grange Co-op were early supporters who sold not just the chocolates, but also the custom packaging that Deena created for each wholesale customer. Today’s customers include Butler Ford, the Ashland Springs Hotel, Anderson Auto Body and many others. In addition to making the chocolates, Deena’s ability to do custom molds and packaging has been a huge selling point for clients.

“I SOURCE LOCALLY AND DIRECTLY FROM THE FARMERS AND DISTILLERS WHENEVER POSSIBLE,” SHE SAYS. “FOR EXAMPLE, OUR MACADAMIA NUTS AND HAZELNUTS COME DIRECTLY FROM THE FARMERS. I CHOOSE OREGON-PRODUCED PRODUCTS AND LIQUORS OVER NATIONALLY PRODUCED PRODUCTS. THE MINT OIL THAT I USE COMES DIRECTLY FROM THE FARMER IN CLATSKANIE, OREGON. AND WE MAKE EVERYTHING IN SMALL BATCHES WITH CARE TO ENSURE THE QUALITY OF OUR PRODUCTS.”

Luckily, for the past five years, one hasn’t needed to be a wholesale client to enjoy the dazzling, mouthwatering array of treats that Deena, Kevin and their hard-working crew create. The retail location for Branson’s Chocolates is 1662 Siskiyou Boulevard in Ashland, and is open Monday through Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM.

Visitors to the retail shop will be greeted with a selection of chocolates that is impressive not only in taste but in variety. The ever-popular toffees and caramels are always available, but adventurous types will also find port wine ganache squares, truffles flavored with tequila (lime, sea salt and Patrón tequila), pomegranate, espresso, toasted coconut porter, pumpkin, raspberry Chambord, amaretto and so much more. Product sourcing and quality are important considerations that go into all of Deena’s creations.

A lifelong Ashland resident, Deena cherishes the supportive atmosphere for small-town businesses that Ashland offers. “We deliberately chose Ashland as the home for our business,” she says. “This is a community that is dedicated to supporting small businesses, and we are also fortunate enough to attract the kind of visitors who support local artisans and locally-owned businesses. We have people who stop by our store every year on their way out of town after their annual Ashland visit.”

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