There’s no better way to get to the heart of a city than through the people who live there. In our feature, “Person of Interest,” we ask local Ann Arborites clearly in love with their city to take us on a personal tour and tell us what makes it special to them. This month, we chatted with Chera Tramontin, co-owner of Kilwin’s Chocolates and Ice Cream Parlor.
Current: How long have you lived in Ann Arbor?
Tramontin: Born and raised! I’m a Community High School graduate, so quite the local yocal. After going away for four years to the then all-girls Wells College in central New York, I couldn’t stay away from Ann Arbor for too long. I came back with a major in ethics and biology, and worked in cancer research at University Hospital. Now I’m here at Kilwin’s with two beautiful daughters.
How did you get involved with Kilwin’s and the business of selling chocolates?
My mother’s dream was to have her own chocolate shop. She’d take my siblings and me on cross-country road trips to sample confections (not a bad way to spend a childhood!) until she realized that there was a chocolate maker in our own state! My mom owned the first franchise store of Kilwin’s. We didn’t start selling ice cream until 1995.
Then came the biggest decision of my life. My mother was diagnosed with cancer and was becoming increasingly weaker. How was she going to keep our store going?
Just as my mother was on the verge of selling the store, I decided that I would become co-owner and manage the store full-time. My mother has been cancer-free for 16 years and still stops by around our major holidays–just when we can use her extra helping hands in the store!
Do you get a lot of out-of-towners or mainly locals?
The majority of folks are definitely dedicated locals. We provide an experience: the sensory pleasures that come with the smell of waffle cones and the novelty of an old-fashioned candy shop. It’s a chance to travel back in time for a treat. My favorite thing is seeing kids who used to come now coming in with their own children. We have literally served for generations!
What do you think makes Ann Arbor unique?
Well, you can’t beat its progressive nature. With all of the prestigious folk who work at the university and the hospital, we always seem to be one step ahead. But there’s a whole other side to Ann Arbor, too–a local caliber, made of families and shopkeepers. Even if you didn’t go to school here, you can still be a huge part of the community. You can open up a jazz club if you want. You can make print books a thing again. You don’t have to feel like you have to check boxes to live here. If you have a voice and can protest and be passionate about something, you’ll fit right in.
Any recommendations for breakfast, lunch, or dinner spots?
I might be totally biased since my stepfather co-founded the business, but you can’t beat The Earle for weekend jazz and great French-Italian food! Get the mussels at Happy Hour for a good deal! I love the underground vibe at The Last Word. I try to eat local when I can, so for lunch I rotate between Le Dog, Afternoon Delight and Jerusalem Garden.
If you could turn one of your Kilwin’s treats into an ode to Ann Arbor confection, which one would it be?
I’d choose my favorite truffle: the double dark truffle. It’s basically death by chocolate–the richest of them all. It has a smooth and concentrated taste. But, I admire its simplicity. It is what it is. It doesn’t need any other flavors added in. It is complete on its own.
Got a sweet tooth?
Check out Kilwin’s Chocolates and Ice Cream Parlor
on 107 E. Liberty Street.
734-769-7759 | kilwins.com