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chocoera

Starting a Commercial Location (Chocolate Shop)

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Hello to all my wonderful friends on eG forums! (actually, you don't know me, this is my first post..but i have been reading all your posts and topics for over a year!)

Long story short, my husband Bradley is a photographer and web designer (http://www.bradleyjensen.com) and I am a "budding" chocolatier with my own 2-yr old home-based business (actually, we are in a renovated old country school house...so that's pretty unique) (http://www.thechocolateseason.com)

We are making the leap into a commercial property, where we will share a building, him upstairs, me on the main level with a kitchen a few steps below the main level. (i will try to attach a pic soon of our "drawing" later next week)

My question is how do you go about making the transition? We are both self-employed and in our 20's (he's 28 i'm 25), so we don't have a huuuuuuuge budget, but are applying for a couple low interest loans. and our commercial spot we're looking at (bare bones) would be only $500 a month, and then our start up expenses, cabinetry, kitchen supplies etc) one question is: Are there certain materials you can and can not use in the kitchen? (wall materials, backsplash, floor, counter top)

How much counter top space do you recommend for production and packaging? Where do you find a quality, but not huge, enrober? (remember the thread where one of our (?) german friends showed us his commercial kitchen, and his 25 lb pot of chocolate that had an attachable enrober/conveyer belt...and it could fold up vertically for storage)

any health code regulations i should especially look into? (i'm in NE now, but will be located in IA for commercial when we move)

pitfalls, or problems you experienced that i could try to avoid? basically any help in designing a floor plan, kitchen layout, where to find kitchen workspace tables, or equipment, enrober, guitar cutter (or something that would work in place of it) etc...i will try to be more specific later, but i will continue to write about our journey...we are shooting for the move in summer, (hopefully we can sell the school house!) with a store opening in late summer early fall?

and any tips on my confections or marketing...always appreciated! i value all your opinions so much! thank you!

xoxo

erika

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Let me ask my biz partner if he has any enrober ideas. For our former product, we used one, but we rented space in another company's chocolate factory. Our current product doesn't need an enrober.

Are you using this commercial location for retail, as well?

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hi libra20, yup, i will be having a chocolate bar (not a liquor bar) but think the movie "chocolat" and a few tables for people to eat a slice of cake, or have REAL hot chocolate! (not hot cocoa!) and then there will be products to take and buy, as well as a selection of chocolates i'll make every 1-2 weeks (i have over 25 flavors, i'm always creating new ones!) so its hard to offer all of them at the same time. thanks for looking into the enrober :)

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Sooner, rather than later, contact the local food police (in my town its called the Environment Dept). They can be your best friend or worst enemy...maybe you read another eGers account of being required to put in a grease trap.

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I second the "food police" comment below. Get yourself a copy of the IA food code as soon as possible. Has the space been used as a commercial kitchen before? If not, you might face significant renovation costs to get it up to code.

Good luck!


Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Congrats to you on your new adventure! How nice to have in-house photographer and hubby just upstairs!

The enrober to which you refer is the Selmi. Torsten showed us his lab here: Adventures in Starting a Chocolate Business - Post #85.

I vaguely recall someone posting floor plans or something like that for layout of the chocolate kitchen, but I don't recall where.

I think your local Health Inspector will have lots to say about materials you can/can't use in your commercial kitchen. See ChristopherMichael's posts...

We look forward to your future posts!


Edited by John DePaula (log)

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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Congrats to you on your new adventure!  How nice to have in-house photographer and hubby just upstairs!

The enrober to which you refer is the Selmi.  Torsten showed us his lab here:  Adventures in Starting a Chocolate Business - Post #85.

I vaguely recall someone posting floor plans or something like that for layout of the chocolate kitchen, but I don't recall where.

I think your local Health Inspector will have lots to say about materials you can/can't use in your commercial kitchen.  See ChristopherMichael's posts...

We look forward to your future posts!

thank you!

i will call look up the health inspector in my future county of residence, and let you know what i find out. as for having a kitchen? no, its an old building and is being completely gutted, and there is nothing there, they even have to install a gas line. (there is a meter outside, but no one has used gas in the building for a very long time)

and thanks for the links to the other posts, i will read through them and write some notes (i have a "commercial notebook" so i remember what i'm doing!)

also, i knew enrobers were expensive...but i was looking at some links from kerry and didn't realize HOW expensive they can be!!! do you all think a small (if possible) enrober is worth the investment? right now i hand-temper with the block method using warming pots from felchin (2 pots...i had bad experiences with chocovision rev 2 and i trust myself more than the machine) and times when i have 300+ to dip, makes an enrober seem pretty nice...but thinking it could be $10,000-$30,000 means that would be a HUGE chunk in my budget...any thoughts? pros cons?

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Good luck on your shop, you are living my dream!!! Your products speak for themselves, they are beautiful and look sooo good. I'll be following with great interest.

By the way, where did you "refine your skills", did you go to pastry school?

Wishing you great success

Peter

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Here's from my biz partner. I don't know if this helps or not. Maybe you could rent something like the other posted suggested. Or find a used one. You could try calling some chocolate manufacturers to see if anyone is selling any used equipment.

"This is a super difficult subject. the place to start is to contact Union Confectionery Machinery in New York. They are the largest dealer in used confectionery equipment.

http://www.unionmachinery.com/

Hilliard is the best know manufacturer of small enrobers."

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Since you are actually opening a food service business, you will need to obtain a license from your county department of environmental health services or whatever they call it in Iowa. Here in NY there are variable fees for this license depending on what type of business you operate.

If you are preparing food for commercial sale, here are some building requirements that are pretty much universal:

All floors, walls and ceilings in food prep area must be smooth and washable.

You must install sealed coping around the entire kitchen where the floor and wall meet. The coping prevents rodents from finding their way into the kitchen from the outside or through the walls.

You must have a bathroom with a toilet and handwash sink that is separately vented.

If you do not have a dishwasher, you must have a three compartment sink with an indirect drain. This is basically where the drain from the sink is separated from a hole in the floor that drains to the sewerage system and prevents any possible backups into the sink. Instead, it backs up onto the floor.

There must be a separate hand washing sink in the kitchen for people to wash their hands. Depending on your layout, I believe you will also need a hand wash sink in the food service area, though this seems to vary from state to state.

You must also install a separate mop sink and provide an area where cleaning supplies and chemicals are stored. This stuff must be kept separate from any food or food supplies storage.

Regarding these sinks, this means that generally, aside from the bathroom, you will need plumbing for all three, though I think they may share drains as long as they are indirect drains. It's a good idea to install grease traps as it will save you hassles in the long run, especially since you will be using and disposing of a good amount of fatty foods (dairy and chocolate.) This stuff accumulates in drains and causes a lot of trouble for local water and sewer utilities-they may have some specific requirements for you too.

All food storage must be kept at least 6 inches from the floor. This is also the case for any utensils you may use to prepare the food.

All large appliances like refrigerators, freezers and stoves will need to be food service/commercial quality. All cooling appliances will need to have an accurate thermometer living inside them.

Make sure your place of business is connected to local water and sewer service, otherwise, you will have to pay for frequent water testing and the testing, maintenance and documentation of an approved septic field.

The fire department will require you to have fire extinguishers and if you have any kind of stove and/or oven, ventilation and some kind of fire suppression system.

You might also be required to take a food safety and sanitation course to maintain your license, though this might also vary from state to state and county to county.

To obtain your permit to operate in a facility that is being converted to a food prep and service operation, you will probably need to submit your plans to the engineering department at the health department. Best to be as specific as possible in your plans and as detailed as you can because they charge you (at least in NY) a new approval fee for each revision.

Contact the health inspector to get information about the local requirements before you start any building plans. Befriend the guy or gal and do plenty of sanitation and food safety research beforehand so that few of the department's requirements will come as a surprise (read, expensive) to you.

Do not forget liability insurance, which you will need to show before your are issued a permit.

The good news is that chocolate is a relatively low risk food item, though the dairy used has it's own requirements.

Good luck with your new venture.

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That was a pretty good rundown.

I'll add, if you are providing customer seating, you may need to provide restroom(s) that do not require access through the kitchen.

Building construction permits and health department permits and licenses are typically separate things with overlapping requirements and separate fees. Plan on everything taking twice as long to happen - permits and construction, and costing twice as much as budgeted - renovation can be full of interesting surprises.

Best of luck, really. Go for it!

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Let me tell you from experience, opening your own shop is not what it's cracked up to be. It's extremely hard to get built and open those doors. After you open is when the real fun begins. It's a WAY bigger venture than you can possibly imagine, not only in price, but more importantly, TIME. I work on average 12-14 hour days (physically at the shop, then add the hours you lay in bed thinking about it or while watching a movie, driving, etc.. I have actually watched a movie and not remember the movie, because I was thinking about the business and zoned out) in the slow season and add many more hours (some nights, NO sleep) on top of that for the season.

Now we can talk about money. I'm not going to say exactly what I have spent on building (which I did most of the labor), architects, permits, equipment, misc. tools, etc. and rent while I was trying to get open, but it was 3x more than what I thought it would be and budgeted for. If you don't have 100k or more for your total budget, then forget about a enrober or Selmi. I'm sure everyones experience is different and will tell you that you can open a shop for 50k, but don't plan on doing wholesale with that kind of budget and turning a profit.

One last thing, the chocolate business is getting very saturated and it seems a new chocolatier opens everyday. My belief is that now that we're experiencing a slowdown in the economy, many chocolatiers will disappear and those of us that have financial stability or that are big enough to absorb the slowdown, will be the only ones standing in the next year or two.

Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, but that love will only take you so far, because you're now having to pay rent, pay the house payment, etc... So that love only comes in handy for your happiness at your job and not your pocket book.

If you want a wake up call about the chocolate biz, talk to Jeff at Lilliebelle Farms. He's been pretty successful and he will tell you bluntly how hard this business is and he won't hold back, as a matter of fact, he will tell you to much reality.

Sorry, if I don't sound supportive, but I gave up everything to do this and it's a VERY competitive and hard business.

I almost forgot, you cannot rent equipment, but you can lease, which is harder these days because of the lending crunch and to lease a Selmi for instance, will cost in the 1000's.


Edited by ChristopherMichael (log)

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I can recommend to make a quick trip down to Tulsa to talk to Steven Howard of Kokoa Chocolatier, he now has three shops here or go talk to Christopher Elbow in KC. They have different types of shops but they are still open.


It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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There is a small chocolate shop here in Boston. I visited and was amazed at the budget saving measures she takes.

Namely

- No enrober

- No melter (!)

- Callebaut, not Valrhona or Felchlin or any of that ($$)

- About 10 flavors (not 30)

- Cutting ganache with a knife (not a guitar)

- About 4-5 molds (not mold types, molds!)

- sleeps and lives downstairs

- No huge freezer with freezer energy costs

- For efficiency, she cuts and dips ganache and minds the store at the same time.

http://www.chocoleechocolates.com/

In a lot of ways, her setup was far more primitive than that of many egullet hobbyists. I'm sure she knows about the fancier setups.

But she knew how much money was coming in and how much investment she could recover.

A real eye opener.


Edited by ejw50 (log)

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How about Kee's in NYC - she makes what she makes - and when they are gone...

Kee has opened a second shop.

It is on 5th Ave. and 39th St., inside the lobby of a bank.

She has two cases, one for macarons and one for chocolates.

It will be interesting to see if her production methods change.

I think she will be true to herself.

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There's a small chocolatier here in town who has a setup much as ejw50 describes. Her store is a single room in a gourmet food and wine shop. She does all her enrobing by hand, with no guitar for cutting pieces. Last time I talked to her about it, she didn't even have a vibrating table for molds - I was telling her about the DIY model, since it's so cheap and easy.

But like ejw50 says - she knows what her margins are and what she can cover.


Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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I dont have a shop and dont plan to have one for awhile ( or maybe never :raz: ) but like many other here I use a commercial kitchen, so no much experience here.

Just my idea, I wouldnt probably buy and enrober or a Selmi ( even though I would LOVE to ), I think it all depend on the amount of chocolates you are planning to turn out. I can easily make 1000 pcs. with no equippment whatsoever ( no enrober, no vibrating table, no tempering machine etc ) only one 6 kg melter, a knife and a plastic fork ( yeah yeah plastic fork :hmmm: ) in 2 days of production. Now I know that it will be alot more work but you can definatelly turn a nice production without all the fancy equipment at the beginning. As far as setting it up I think there is another thread and someone posted their lab pictures to show us, to get an idea for the best setting etc.

Since you are going to do everything from scratch in your lab, having the inspectors there right away will help you to make this easier, since they like to know everything is up to code and their liking, they can be very helpfull in this part.

I wish you the best of luck!

And keep us update we love to see how things turn out


Vanessa

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Let me tell you from experience, opening your own shop is not what it's cracked up to be. It's extremely hard to get built and open those doors. After you open is when the real fun begins. It's a WAY bigger venture than you can possibly imagine, not only in price, but more importantly, TIME. I work on average 12-14 hour days (physically at the shop, then add the hours you lay in bed thinking about it or while watching a movie, driving, etc.. I have actually watched a movie and not remember the movie, because I was thinking about the business and zoned out) in the slow season and add many more hours (some nights, NO sleep) on top of that for the season.

Now we can talk about money. I'm not going to say exactly what I have spent on building (which I did most of the labor), architects, permits, equipment, misc. tools, etc. and rent while I was trying to get open, but it was 3x more than what I thought it would be and budgeted for. If you don't have 100k or more for your total budget, then forget about a enrober or Selmi. I'm sure everyones experience is different and will tell you that you can open a shop for 50k, but don't plan on doing wholesale with that kind of budget and turning a profit.

One last thing, the chocolate business is getting very saturated and it seems a new chocolatier opens everyday. My belief is that now that we're experiencing a slowdown in the economy, many chocolatiers will disappear and those of us that have financial stability or that are big enough to absorb the slowdown, will be the only ones standing in the next year or two.

Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, but that love will only take you so far, because you're now having to pay rent, pay the house payment, etc... So that love only comes in handy for your happiness at your job and not your pocket book.

If you want a wake up call about the chocolate biz, talk to Jeff at Lilliebelle Farms. He's been pretty successful and he will tell you bluntly how hard this business is and he won't hold back, as a matter of fact, he will tell you to much reality. 

Sorry, if I don't sound supportive, but I gave up everything to do this and it's a VERY competitive and hard business.

I almost forgot, you cannot rent equipment, but you can lease, which is harder these days because of the lending crunch and to lease a Selmi for instance, will cost in the 1000's.

thank you so much for the information :) and as for jeff, if you know him, do you mind letting him know i'll be contacting him? i'd really appreciate, and have been a frequent fan to his web site!

as for budget...yup, its low, but we figure we'll only be growing. and the area i'm in has not seen an "artisan" chocolatier before, and the nearest chocolate shop (more like grandma's chocolates) is an hour away, and the nearest *gag* godiva is 2 1/2 hrs away, so i feel i'd have that market. i don't crave to be big and famous, but just offer a unique product to a certain population. and the fact that i've been growing steadily the last 2 yrs is uplifting, and the area i'm moving to is quite familiar with me and my product.

i do understand the long days, my days are also about 12 hrs, and during busy season (now) i work with little breaks for, well, just today was 16 1/2 hrs. so i understand the toll it takes on someone.

i am very stressed about opening commercially, but feel it is the right step to continue to grow, and looooooooove all the help everyone on here has given.

i will try to update pics when i'm home in another month, and will keep you abreast to the sanitation dept, (who has yet to return my call)

keep the info coming...i'm checking into it all.

and any more thoughts on ways to be productive and efficient, without an enrober?

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I can recommend to make a quick trip down to Tulsa to talk to Steven Howard of Kokoa Chocolatier, he now has three shops here or go talk to Christopher Elbow in KC.  They have different types of shops but they are still open.

christopher elbow is doable...have heard great things about him, as well as his type of shop..very clean, but showy (like a jewelry store?) not my look i'm going for (think old , warm, vintage, dk woods etc...) but would love to see one up and running nonetheless... will try to head there between busy seasons (so in jan?) or after V-day

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There is a small chocolate shop here in Boston.  I visited and was amazed at the budget saving measures she takes. 

Namely

- No enrober

- No melter (!)

- Callebaut, not Valrhona or Felchlin or any of that ($$)

- About 10 flavors (not 30)

- Cutting ganache with a knife (not a guitar)

- About 4-5 molds (not mold types, molds!)

- sleeps and lives downstairs

- No huge freezer with freezer energy costs

- For efficiency, she cuts and dips ganache and minds the store at the same time.

http://www.chocoleechocolates.com/

In a lot of ways, her setup was far more primitive than that of many egullet hobbyists.  I'm sure she knows about the fancier setups.

  But she knew how much money was coming in and how much investment she could recover.

A real eye opener.

WOW! even her website is quite simple, but tasteful, and i applaud her for being smart with the commercial location.  and honestly, she sounds a bit like me...i cut and dip by hand, i temper with block method and aggitation, (i have to many flavors..but only cuz i like creating things...but i only make 8 at a time)

do you know her at all?  do you think she'd talk to me?

thanks for the link..i'm bookmarking her site...


Edited by chocoera (log)

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Since you are actually opening a food service business, you will need to obtain a license from your county department of environmental health services or whatever they call it in Iowa. Here in NY there are variable fees for this license depending on what type of business you operate.

If you are preparing food for commercial sale, here are some building requirements that are pretty much universal:

All floors, walls and ceilings in food prep area must be smooth and washable.

You must install sealed coping around the entire kitchen where the floor and wall meet. The coping prevents rodents from finding their way into the kitchen from the outside or through the walls.

You must have a bathroom with a toilet and handwash sink that is separately vented.

If you do not have a dishwasher, you must have a three compartment sink with an indirect drain. This is basically where the drain from the sink is separated from a hole in the floor that drains to the sewerage system and prevents any possible backups into the sink. Instead, it backs up onto the floor.

There must be a separate hand washing sink in the kitchen for people to wash their hands. Depending on your layout, I believe you will also need a hand wash sink in the food service area, though this seems to vary from state to state.

You must also install a separate mop sink and provide an area where cleaning supplies and chemicals are stored. This stuff must be kept separate from any food or food supplies storage.

Regarding these sinks, this means that generally, aside from the bathroom, you will need plumbing for all three, though I think they may share drains as long as they are indirect drains. It's a good idea to install grease traps as it will save you hassles in the long run, especially since you will be using and disposing of a good amount of fatty foods (dairy and chocolate.) This stuff accumulates in drains and causes a lot of trouble for local water and sewer utilities-they may have some specific requirements for you too.

All food storage must be kept at least 6 inches from the floor. This is also the case for any utensils you may use to prepare the food.

All large appliances like refrigerators, freezers and stoves will need to be food service/commercial quality. All cooling appliances will need to have an accurate thermometer living inside them.

Make sure your place of business is connected to local water and sewer service, otherwise, you will have to pay for frequent water testing and the testing, maintenance and documentation  of an approved septic field.

The fire department will require you to have fire extinguishers and if you have any kind of stove and/or oven, ventilation and some kind of fire suppression system.

You might also be required to take a food safety and sanitation course to maintain your license, though this might also vary from state to state and county to county.

To obtain your permit to operate in a facility that is being converted to a food prep and service operation, you will probably need to submit your plans to the engineering department at the health department. Best to be as specific as possible in your plans and as detailed as you can because they charge you (at least in NY) a new approval fee for each revision.

Contact the health inspector to get information about the local requirements before you start any building plans. Befriend the guy or gal and do plenty of sanitation and food safety research beforehand so that few of the department's requirements will come as a surprise (read, expensive) to you.

Do not forget liability insurance, which you will need to show before your are issued a permit.

The good news is that chocolate is a relatively low risk food item, though the dairy used has it's own requirements.

Good luck with your new venture.

pyewacket: you rock. thank you so much for taking the time to write this out! i am copying and pasting this list to my future landlord (since he is renovating the structure, and brad and i are going in with the finer details and kitchen equip etc) and yes, i am renting the first 1-2 yrs, with an option to buy (setting a price now) so that if (lord please) im successful, it would be wise then to buy and invest money into the finer detailing, outside etc...but again. wow. blown away by the info! thank you!

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