Alumnus Keeps Life Sweet with Candy Business
Tino Ramirez, owner of the Chocolate Bar and Candylicious, has built one of the most well-known chocolate stores in Houston. Ramirez said the best thing he learned from the University of St. Thomas is to open his mind to explore opportunities and challenges. Lucky for Ramirez, his challenges involve dozens of trays of brownies a week, a multitude of sumptuous cakes and hundreds of pounds of delectable chocolate. See a video of Ramirez making treats from the Chocolate Bar.
Ramirez, a communications major from 1981-1985, said St. Thomas holds a dear place in his heart because of the foundational interpersonal skills and career awareness it gave him, not to mention the University’s high reputation in the community.
"One reason I wanted to attend St. Thomas is I understood if you're from UST, you move to the top of the list in business and employment,” Ramirez said. “I took that as a selling point and through the years, I've found that to be true."
Ramirez often hires UST students to serve up homemade ice cream flavors like Creamy Dreamy Truffle and Candylicious Junkyard. He said UST students tend to present themselves better, and through working at the Chocolate Bar, he hopes to encourage and support their progress.
"The first impression is a lasting impression, and it's the most important thing. It invites customers to enjoy the experience even more," Ramirez said.
Ramirez said Dr. Robin Williamson, chair of the Department of Communication, was integral in showing Ramirez concepts that could transcend any job.
"She had a passion that was second nature, and I wanted to have that passion as well,” Ramirez said. “You need to learn how to communicate, read people and present yourself. She also showed me you've got to believe in what you do."
Ramirez has owned the Chocolate Bar, a Willy Wonka-esque environment offering hot drinks, cakes, seasonal favorites, sugar-free chocolates, gourmet desserts and hand-dipped favorites, since 2000. With two locations, at 1835 West Alabama St. and in Rice Village, at 2521 University Blvd. Ramirez expanded his business about eight years ago with Candylicious, a retro candy store offering new and old-fashioned candies customers love.
Ramirez strives to make the experience one that all customers, from UST and all over the world, will never forget.
"The mission of the Chocolate Bar is to bring an experience to the customer so they can leave the world behind,” Ramirez said.
With all of his success, he still credits his time at St. Thomas as the best experience of his life.