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Choose Your Own Chocolate Bar

It was genius born of necessity. During the course of a prolonged car trip with his friends, Weston native Nick LaCava (center) found that his candy -- chocolate, gummy bears, granola, marshmallows, etc. -- had melted into a gooey mess. But tossing the convected confection into the garbage was not an option: Instead it went into the refrigerator.

A few hours later his friends dared the 23-year-old self-described "candy addict" to eat the now congealed slab. To his surprise, it was "delicious." It was then, he said, that "light bulbs went off in our heads" and the idea for Chocomize , an online candy store, was molded. Its concept is deliciously simple: Customers create their own chocolate bars, combining ingredients like nuts, fruits, spices and candy with dark, milk or white chocolate. (Among their "weirdest" orders: bacon, Pop Rocks and ground coffee in milk chocolate.)

Nick and his friends Eric Heinbockel and Fabian Kaempfer had all recently graduated from Columbia University and were toying with ideas for their future. But Nick hadn't exactly considered candy, always a favorite item on his daily menu, as part of his professional future: "I had envisioned myself working in finance. When the 'great recession' hit, I had a lot of trouble finding a job," he says.

With the contribution of long hours and hard work, their fledgling business -- financed with small business loans and with help from their families -- has taken off, as the slow economy hasn't seemed to negatively affect the public's hunger for sugar.

But Nick's schedule isn't filled with candy alone. An accomplished rower, he practices before and after work each day, training on the U.S. National Rowing team. He hopes to make the cut for the 2012 Olympics.

Nick, who now resides in Princeton, N. J., credits his family for his culinary success: "They definitely were surprised I wanted to start a chocolate company, but I've always had a huge sweet tooth, so it's not that far out of left field." He just hopes his parents won't become tired of his Christmas, birthday, Mother's and Father's day gifts: "free chocolate," he says.

At least it's not melted.

Build your own confection at www.chocomize.com.

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