For this prankster, taking risks paid off with a sweet career
At NSFG, Phyllis Geiger found a home away from home, and a new sisterhood. She adored her social life and was a spirited prankster around campus. Under her photo in her senior yearbook was a prophetic line about her life: “Everything is sweetened by risk.” In 1983, she started Peterbrooke Chocolatier, which now has many franchises in Florida and beyond, and ships all over the country. Though Geiger is now retired, she still has a sweet tooth.
Which teacher had the most impact on you?
Mrs. Cantarella. She was the senior English teacher. She was very forebidding. Everybody really feared that they would get her, and of course they got her. When you were in her English class, you did pay attention and you did listen. The ground rumbled when she walked into the room. She would call on people. One day she pointed at me and she said, ‘Lockwood.’ The question was about Moby Dick or something. And I didn’t have the right answer. And she yelled at me, I’ll never forget, ‘Lockwood, you are withering on the branch of knowledge.’ That stuck with me for the rest of my life.
What activities did you join?
In order to have a social life, you wanted to do stuff with Williston. I joined Mask and Wig and the Glee Club. I helped make costumes and I loved the performances. The performance I remember the most was “The Mikado.” I did some costumes for that. The whole performance was cool because there were some great voices involved.
What did you enjoy studying?
I enjoyed Latin the most, of all weird things. I’m not particularly good at languages. Somehow I clicked into the language. Latin has been a wonderful thing throughout my life as far as helping my vocabulary. I would recommend taking Latin to anybody. I hope that schools still carry it. I can’t really translate much, but still when something comes up, I try to translate it. It’s a good part of our education.
Who were you as a student and teenager?
I liked to play pranks with anyone that would have a prank with me.
One time we undid all the screws on the doorknobs in the house, so when the housemother came in to any room, the doorknobs fell off in her hands. Under my senior picture in my yearbook, it says, ‘Everything in life is sweetened by risk.’ And that’s so prophetic of my life. I went into the confectionary business. I risked everything I had and started a chocolate business, and now it’s all over the place. That’s why it’s prophetic. Isn’t that amazing?
What were some of the rules at NSFG?
Lights out at 10. And of course we hid in the closets and talked to each other. But after a while we realized we couldn’t hear each other very well through the walls. So we made a little hole there so we could talk. We’d talk about everything and anything.
What inspired you to start a chocolate company?
Peterbrooke Chocolatier is named after my children, Peter and Brooke. I always wanted to have my own business. When I apprenticed to a chocolatier, the lights went on for me. I was trained in the European method. And I thought, ‘Wow, we don’t have an American translation for this.’ So that’s what I did. I translated the European way of making chocolate into an American thing.