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THERESA -- It's not hard to find inspiration when there's chocolate involved and Joel Bernhard has plenty within reach.
He owns Confections for Any Occasion in Theresa and is the artist behind just about anything imaginable made out of chocolate.
The shop has "chocolate covered Oreo cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate covered Rice Krispie treats, chocolate covered peeps, truffles," said Bernhard. "The chocolate shaped high heels are very popular.
But Bernhard has never seen his final creations.
"I can only see light and dark and a few shadows," said Bernhard. He has been blind since he was four.
He says that's just about as long as he's had a love for baking. Bernhard cashed in on that love and opened Confections for Any Occasion in 2000.
"It's been going very good. We started at a good time and I enjoy what i'm doing-everyday is something different," said Bernhard.
He uses his other senses to overcompensate for the one he's missing.
"I can feel the difference between flour and sugar. I can smell the different extracts. I can taste different ingredients," said Bernhard.
"I come up with new recipes. I can do experiments making the centers of the truffles," and Bernhard says he just gets some help finishing them off.
Besides his employees Joel relies on technology, his memory and good old fashioned honesty to keep everything in check. He asks his customers what prices come up on the scale when they weigh their goodies.
As with most artists, the perfect creation is sometimes a matter of trial and error. Bernhard makes five to ten batches of his swiss style chocolate before he gets it just right.
"We give out samples to customers and the UPS guy to get their feedback and just kinda keep going from there," said Bernhard.
He never lets what he can't do get in the way of what he can.
"You have to keep driving. It doesn't pay to sit back and do nothing because that gets boring," said Bernhard.
"We are very proud of him and hope he can continue to be successful in his adventures, whatever he decides to do," said Berhard's mother Karen.
If those adventures involve chocolate, there's a good chance Bernhard won't ever lose his drive.
"A day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine," said Bernhard.
Confections for Any Occasion is located at 101 N. Milwaukee St. Theresa, WI 53091.