Veronica Barrera believes in her community, and for over a decade, she has dedicated herself to improving it in a variety of ways through her business. Originally a Weslaco native, and once again a local resident, Barrera decided to return home after having left the Rio Grande Valley for college and a career.
Barrera wasn’t looking forward to the idea of starting at the bottom again in her career just because she decided to move back to the Valley. She had been working as a nutritionist in Dallas, and had extensive experience running kitchens.
“I wanted to do something different,” Barrera said. “It was just at the start of the boom for the Valley.” She and her sister started looking into business opportunities. “The big talk at the time was about Weslaco and Mercedes fighting for the outlets.”
She knew this was a chance to bring something new to the part of the region she considered her home, the place she and her sister grew up in.
“I wanted something that was familiar to people, something that would make the Valley more desireable,” Barrera said. She acknowledged that she wanted to draw South Padre visitors farther west, to encourage them to patronize businesses in her part of the Valley by providing them with something familiar.
The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is a well known international franchise that Barrera and her sister were both familiar with from their time living away from the Valley. Cooking and baking had always been a passion for her, so she thought taking on a chocolate shop with her sister was doable. As a franchise, some of the candy is made in the factory in Durango, Colorado, and brought in by refrigerated truck, but other items are made in house, including the caramel apples.
“The apples took off like crazy,” Barrera said. “It was such a great start for us in Mercedes because I just couldn’t keep up. We make our caramel from scratch so I was making these huge batches and we were dipping around 300 apples every couple of days.” Within three months she had to hire a cook to help her.
About a year after they opened up their shop in Mercedes, Barrera and her sister decided to take another chance and invested in another store. This time, they opened up a location in Palms Crossing in McAllen.
“Palms Crossing was opening up with P.F. Chang’s and Cheddars, all these places the Valley didn’t have before,” she said. Barrera treasures the hometown feel of the Valley but also wants growth and opportunity that comes from having a full range of businesses that used to take people out of the Valley to shop. She recalls always going to San Antonio to go school shopping as a child, but now as a local businesswoman, she realizes the importance of shopping local because it benefits and improves the community and the schools.
Early on in her business, Barrera set up fundraising campaigns with local teachers, selling them candy at cost, allowing them to fund field trips and other learning experiences, as a way to give back to her community. They also regularly donate gift baskets for charities and causes in the local area.
The newly expanded La Plaza Mall is the home of Barrera’s third location. The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory franchise headquarters and Barrera are both excited to be a part of the premier shopping destination in the Rio Grande Valley.
Besides providing Valley residents with sweet treats during their shopping experience, Barrera also creates unique gift baskets and offers catering for special occasions like weddings, birthdays, quinceañeras and baptisms. They have experience with large and small events and enjoy working closely with their customers to perfectly enhance each unique occasion. Barrera and her sister treat their customers like friends and family because they are deeply entrenched in their community and are working to support it as they support themselves.
The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has such a variety of edible delights, including sugar-free options, that everyone is sure to find a new favorite candy to love. Barrera admits that even though she has a favorite candy in each category, her overall favorite is the plain milk-chocolate bar. She encourages her employees to try them all, so if you are looking for a recommendation, come into any of the locations here in the Valley and just ask!