Melissa Wheeler of Murtle’s Handmade Chocolates
Melissa Wheeler has been sweetening up downtown Owosso since 2017 with her chocolate shop, Murtle’s Handmade Chocolates
Born and raised in Sandusky, Michigan, Melissa Wheeler wasn’t always planning to be the next Willy Wonka. As a graduate of Ferris State University with a BBA in advertising and a certificate in direct marketing, Melissa became a certified pharmacy technician and worked for Walgreens for over a decade.
When she decided to change careers and leave the corporate world, she learned how to make chocolate from a friend, and ultimately opened Murtle’s Handmade Chocolates in downtown Owosso in 2017. A few years later, Melissa moved the shop to a larger location at 112 W. Main Street – the former home of Candyland Chocolates and Restaurant from 1932 to 1959.
Melissa is carrying on that sweet legacy, drawing visitors from around the state to Owosso for her handmade truffles, coconut clusters and molded chocolates. Her favorite treat from the shop? The cookie butter cup.
In 2023, Michigan Main Street (MMS) celebrated 20 years of building stronger communities across the state. MMS has been a top coordinating program affiliated with the National Main Street Center, Main Street America, assisting communities interested in revitalizing and preserving their traditional commercial districts. In 2009, the Owosso Main Street program was established to further develop and promote business and activity in downtown Owosso, ensuring business owners like Melissa can thrive for years to come.
“I was with Walgreens for 13 years when I decided I needed a new career and to get out of the corporate world. A friend of mine was making chocolate in the back of his restaurant. I asked him to show me how… and the rest is history!
We start with the best chocolate we can find. It's fair-trade chocolate and ‘couverture,’ which means it has to be tempered in a special machine—it can't just be melted and used. Everything we make, we make with our hands. There's no machine that cranks out the chocolate, stamps it and wraps it.
Every stick in a lollipop is put there with our hands. Every cream is rolled with our hands.
Along with the candy we make, we offer things from a lot of other small businesses as a way to support them while giving our customers a variety of options: pretzels from Imlay City, cheese balls made in Colorado. The friend who taught me how to make chocolate now makes popcorn —it’s grown in Hemlock—and his popcorn is here, too."
"Everything we do, we do with love. Even when we package things, we treat them like they're our babies: we see them from the beginning to the end! We don't just throw your stuff in a box or a bag – we take great care to make sure that your chocolate gets to where it's going and looks good when it gets there.
We started off four doors down in a tiny little shop and today, the space we’re in now is probably five or six times as big. We've been here since November 2021 and every day we're just so grateful. This is a really cool space, our landlords are fantastic, and this building was actually also a candy store 100 years ago, so it's come full circle. It was called Candyland, and we still have the holes in the walls where the soda fountain came through upstairs.
I love downtown Owosso. I grew up in a small town with a little dime store similar to Springrove and I have great memories of being in its downtown, and I just wanted to have a spot where people could come in and have the same memories that I had as a kid. Customers can watch us make chocolate and wrap the boxes with ribbon.
It's amazing those little things that stick with you your whole life.”
This story originally appeared as a part of the Michigan Main Street Story Series.