Following dreams throughout life’s unexpected moments

What started as a part-time job in high school became a lifelong passion for Kelsey Bean.

Owner of The Chocolate Ox, a candy and ice cream shop with two locations in Nisswa, Bean was first hired to work summers and weekends at the store when she was 15 years old. She never stopped. She worked at The Chocolate Ox throughout high school, while attending and after graduating with a degree in elementary education from St. Cloud State University in 2010, and even worked weekends and summers while teaching elementary school full-time in Sauk Rapids.

In December 2022, then-owners Rob and Loriese Stoll decided they wanted to retire and started thinking through selling The Chocolate Ox. They gave Bean first dibs, and the rest is history. Bean stepped back from teaching full-time and focused on the business. She officially took ownership on March 17, 2023, and hasn’t looked back.

Kelsey Bean working in The Chocolate Ox.“It’s something that’s always been a second nature to me. I’ve always been passionate about teaching and then I’ve been passionate about The Ox, too, so it’s kind of a caveat,” she said. “I had to give up teaching in order to do this passion, but I did teach for 15 years, so I felt like I had fulfilled that cup.”

Bean may not teach full-time anymore, but she still uses her experiences and skills gained from her time at SCSU and in the teaching field.

“I think any degree — whether I would’ve gotten a business degree or teaching degree — teaches you relationship skills, teaches you basic common responsibilities,” she said. “There’s a lot of expectations when you go from high school to college that you learn — I feel like those basic skills that teach you to take your life and stay afloat, make sure you’re in the pool and you’re moving forward but you’re not at the bottom and still keeping your head up — I think you learn a lot of that.”

While Bean still substitutes from time to time in the Sauk Rapids school district and keeps “connected with that work family,” she said it was time to focus on another passion.

“I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a teacher — that was always something I knew growing up. I never questioned it, I never faltered from that,” she said. “But business has always been my drive — the business of really impacting others and making this something that they turn into a family tradition. That’s been the fun thing about working here (at The Chocolate Ox) for so long, is I have customers that were in carseats when I started that are now in college. It’s just neat that people include us in all their family traditions or weddings or grad parties — we do all sorts of things because people just love it so much.”

Bean credits the Stolls with building The Chocolate Ox into what it is today. The couple purchased the business when it was called Nisswa Country Store in 2003 and then renamed it. Bean said her focus is to keep the momentum going that the Stolls created, and to find new and innovative ways to grow the business while still leaving a lasting impression on its customers.

“You can say it’s just a candy and an ice cream store, but at the end of the day it’s so much more than that,” she said. “Think about your favorite, fondest childhood memory that you have, whether that be going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, or going to the cabin, or whatever family traditions you had growing up and that core memory that we all had as kids, and we tend to lose that as adults — but The Chocolate Ox is that memory.”

The Chocolate Ox means that and more to Bean, who has been able to focus on the business throughout her own turning points in life — through good times and bad. One such point was her husband passing away in September 2021.

Kelsey Bean in The Chocolate Ox candy store“When you go through something life-changing like that — which obviously no one ever expects, you read about it in books and you watch it on TV, and so when you go through something as life-changing as that can be … It’s so funny to think back on where I am today, because right when things like that happen you kind of hit rock bottom,” she said. “Your whole future is wiped out; everything you had planned, you planned together. I remember thinking for a few weeks right after his passing, ‘Now what?’

“I remember it being really scary, I remember it being really intimidating, and then thinking, ‘Well, the world keeps moving. I’ve got to get up, I’ve got to put two feet in front of the other and just keep going.’ And I did that.”

While Bean was still teaching full-time and working at The Chocolate Ox in 2021, she and her husband had also purchased a medical supply business, Qsum Biopsies & Disposables, earlier that year after working some time through a buyout process. While it was not Bean’s passion, but her husband’s, she has kept the business running.

“It’s hard because I was passionate about teaching and I was passionate about retail and the candy world. His passion was medical and retail, so it’s hard for me to speak too much on it,” she said. “I try and keep it alive and keep it moving forward and continue to try and grow it — even though it is somewhat foreign to me, because it’s what he would’ve wanted and what he would’ve done. It’s really keeping his memory alive and his legacy alive through his work that he had worked so hard, almost seven years, to build.”

Bean taught full-time during the days, worked on Qsum over nights and worked at the candy shop on weekends throughout that time in her life.

“If you work hard enough, it pays off. Sometimes it’s hard,” she said. “It’s clear for me now, but that clarity of thinking wasn’t there in the heart of the pain and the hardness that you go through when you’re going through a transition like that.”

Now that she has stepped back from teaching full-time, Bean has “an awesome team of ladies” who help run Qsum for her, and is able to focus on The Chocolate Ox. She credits perseverance, passion and drive with getting her to this point.

“I’ve always tried to do everything with a smile. Life is hard and you’re going to have ups and downs and it’s going to knock you off your feet. I remember there were a lot of times even going through college; when you’re that age, you’re just overwhelmed and it’s hard, but I think just putting one foot in front of the other and doing everything with a smile gets you a long way,” she said. “I’ve been through my share of ups and downs, and just because you’re down, doesn’t mean that ultimately your dreams and goals are down, too.”


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