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Building New Chocolate/Candy Shop

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After 6 years of making & selling chocolates in a very small mall space, I have the opportunity to expand into a brand new building (renting one of four shop spaces in the building.) I'll be buying a Hilliard's Six Inch Coater to add to the Little Dipper and the Mol d'Art melter I currently use. The coating process will be visible (behind glass) to customers. I'll continue to also sell fudge and candies and nuts, as gifts and for instant gratification, because the heavy walk-by traffic includes kids and adults, not all of whom are chocolate lovers (gasp!) I am considering adding espresso-based drinks, as this is lacking in this downtown area, although I am a little concerned with the heavy coffee aroma infiltrating my chocolates.

My question for eGulleters is, any advice, thoughts, do's or don'ts? Anything you wish you'd done differently, or are particularly happy with, in your shops/kitchens? Anything you love or hate about chocolate shops you visit? I'd love to get any kind of input, as the blank floor plan seems to have taken up permanent residence in my mind's eye.

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When you mention that the workspace will be visible to customers behind glass, do you mean that your workroom will actually be an enclosed space so that you can control the climate in there? If that's the case, I wouldn't worry about coffee smells infiltrating the chocolate since that'll be made upfront in the storefront. At the same time, however, your storefront won't smell like chocolate, so it'd better smell like something! Coffee's the next best thing. :smile:

I don't own a chocolate shop but know several other people who do so here are a few things to consider:

You really should have prepared gifts/baskets and other packaged items that people can just grab and go. I know several chocolatiers who've sold triple or quadruple their volume easily just by having handy gift packs already prepared. I don't know what you do already, but consider signature ballotins for your truffles that are already packaged too.... although you'll need printed chocolate maps for each box.

If you have a front window and plan on a display, especially is you do larger show pieces, you'll really need a cooling system for the display window and it should be enclosed andclimate controlled, just like your workspace. A few hours daily of sunlight will have you constantly trying to fix the mess!

In addition to the coffee, you definitely must serve an authentic hot chocolate too, complete with homemade marshmallows. But be prepared for requests to sell the marshmallows on their own too.

Hmmmm.... can't think of anything else right now, but the front window with the cooling system is an important one. I know 2 people who made the mistake of overlooking that when they opened their shops. :sad:

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one of my greatest comestible pleasures is chocolate + tea (earl grey tea is a suburb combination).

re the ambient aroma -- the smell of coffee is fine, but if that's the primary thing i smell when i go into a chocolate shop, i'm going to think the place might highlight coffee over chocolate. i wonder if something can be done so that the coffee aroma doesn't overshadow everything else.

consider chocolate events -- a chocolate "cocktail" hour once a week when new, exclusive or special treats are offered (free samples wouldn't hurt).

chocolate tastings -- like wine tastings but with chocolate.

chocolate pastries would be nice, as well as (during an event, perhaps), showing how choclate can be incorporated in unusual dishes (like savories).

it would be neat if you could have a temperature-controlled showcase or window in which you could display high chocolate art (e.g., a life-size chocolate dress, a city in chocolate -- you could do the town itself, complete with well-known buildings).

i love the idea of being able to see how the chocolate is made.

pre-assembled gift baskets is another great idea.

you might also think of getting personalized dishware with little, wonderful sayings or quotes related to chocolate (cups, bowls, etc.). that would be a hard gift for a chocolate-lover to turn down.

i wish you every success :)

cheers --

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oh, and to add...

little chocolate menus would be novel and neat. :)

sure, you can read what's on the board and see what's in the cases, but it would be a neat experience to sit down at a table and peruse all the wonderful delicacies.

cheers --

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Good for you! You must be really excited.

I was able to started with a blank slate (floor plan) as well. I have a six foot table that is visible to my customers, but I kept my machines and other tables off to the side. To be honest, I don’t want to stop and wipe down my machine every 30 min. especially after working 48 hours straight two days before Valentines. For me at least, there are always busy moments when the whole process isn’t so glitz and glamour. Just be careful of how much your customers can see. Nothing wrong with a bit of mystery.

My entire building is only 40 x 40’ and my kitchen space is 10x 40’. The front or retail section is climate controlled. But, there are no heating or a/c ducts in the kitchen. Instead we installed remote controlled window units at each end. Basically, I’m working in a large cooling tunnel and the layout has worked really well.

I wanted climate controlled windows, but found it too costly. Instead, I’ve had to get creative using dummy boxes and antique molds. I keep my chocolate and chocolate displays farther in the back away from direct sunlight.

We are a gift store as well. Like HalloweenCat said, we carry plates, bowls w/chocolate sayings. A big seller this year has been pink and black coffee mugs with monogram initials on them. We fill with requested chocolate then bag and bow. We also carry Mocha bubble bath, lotions, candles, tea, coffee, cards....anything we can tastefully tie into a chocolate theme. Kind of like Red Envelope, all things luxurious that could only make chocolate eating better! Of course it’s a trap, people don’t come in to buy a gift without buying a piece or two for themselves. All part of my evil plan (insert menacing, if not annoying retailer laugh)

Change can be tedious, just remember you’ll have all the kinks worked out well before the chocolate season. Best of luck to you!


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What a pleasant question, thank you for asking it. My reply is strictly from the consumer side.

My chocolate experience is in many ways based on my childhood experience. There was one shop in town that made their own chocolate and this was considered the best to be had. This was, of course, before the influx of design chocolate.

The "works" was not visible in the retail area, but once a year, during Easter, you could take a tour. Someone dressed as the Easter bunny would be present with a basket, handing out chocolate eggs.

Everything was beautifully wrapped and there were several signature items that I remember quite fondly. The building had iconic red and white stripped column supports outside, and they used the red and white stripe on a small box that held four pieces of chocolate. Kind of like the Russel Stover or Whitman's sampler tiny box, but completely square. I had one of these in my Christmas stocking every year. One of their signature items was an egg either the size of a softball or the size of a tennis ball (both elongated, of course). The interiors were a variety of things, but the all time favorites were a swirl of caramel and marshmallow or French chocolate (much like the Ice Cube).

The owner, Charlie Faroh, was a very friendly guy and known by everyone in town.

I live in New York City where I have my choice of chocolate shops and every once in a while I go into one of the high-end places and choose some nice chocolate, but it's always too sterile for me. No one knows you, the chocolates all look like tablets, it feels competitive and exclusive, there's nothing cute or holiday-oriented.

What I prefer is an old-time local shop, Li-Lac. There are certain chocolates I can get there I can't get anywhere else. Everything sold by the piece. They have an endless supply of antique molds, and the ones available are constantly changing but ever available.

Some of my favorites --

Every year or so the valentine heart changes. I have three of them in my dresser with jewelry in it. If a chocolate store doesn't sell a sumptuous heart-shaped box on the big day, why exist? They also make a heart-shaped chunk of chocolate, very thick. Fits in your mouth, yet is almost too much. Decadent.

Alternatively, they sell chocolate heart shaped boxes filled with chocolate.

A thick shamrock shaped chocolate covered marshmallow covered in green foil.

The old-fashioned, natural, in profile, classique bunny de chocolat. With a satin bow around the neck.

A chocolate coffin about the size of a box of matches with a white chocolate mummy in it. The cover is offset so that you can see the mummy inside.

Autmun leaves in gold, green, red -- fruit jellies. Really pretty on display.

So frequent visits are in order. I buy a lot of stuff there to send to my parents and my neice. And I stop in for a few pieces of my favorites -- fresh peanut brittle, French mints, almond bark, etc.

This is a salt-of-the-earth chocolate shop. In a fantasy chocolate shop we're talking red roses, velvet drapes, a chocolate fountain, and Sophia Loren behind the counter . . .

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Wow! Thank you thankyou thankyou for the comments and ideas. I really appreciate all the thought that went into your replies, and naturally, now I have more questions. :rolleyes:

do you mean that your workroom will actually be an enclosed space so that you can control the climate in there?

I was planning on having the window separating my workspace rise 6 feet or so, not to the ceiling, but am now wondering... I am not sure of my need for climate control: The building is a new type with an R-factor of 50, the windows face north and so far as I've seen get no direct sunlight but plenty of indirect daylight, and the heating is thru coils in the floor.

Instead we installed remote controlled window units at each end. Basically, I’m working in a large cooling tunnel and the layout has worked really well.

Are these units that normally stick into a window? or something I've never seen before? I love the idea of working in a large cooling tunnel, if I need cooling. And thanks for the 'mystery' thought--yes there are times I don't want to see or be seen!

What I prefer is an old-time local shop, Li-Lac.

I visited Li-Lac about 5 years ago and obviously didn't take enough time to really check it out. It may be time for another visit! I agree wholeheartedly on the anti-sterile sentiment (re other shops), but hadn't pinpointed the thought for myself--thanks.

Prepackaged baskets/gifts for sure, the ceramic plates/bowls/mugs with chocolate sayings--wow again--one neighbor in the building is a potter, another a screen-printer/embroiderer (t-shirt, anyone?)

I am so excited, and so grateful for your comments, and I promise to stop gushing now. :biggrin:


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The window units are plain ole' window units. I attached the remote to the wall above my tempering machines. Here is one from walmart.


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here's another thought...

chocolate-lovers often have decided preferences for milk or dark (meaning, no milk). for example, i'm in the dark chocolate camp. when some well-meaning person gives me milk chocolate i don't eat it, no matter how cute the rabbit or how beguilingly packaged the confection. i'd adivise having a good selection of both, seeing how things sell, and then tinkering with the amounts sold, where needed.

cheers --

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All confections mentioned above come in milk, dark and white.

I, also, eat dark chocolate.

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The other day I was digging online and found this very cool chocolatier based out of Central PA that has the best dark chocolate! I ordered a box of 2o and could not put it down! :biggrin: For those of you that like dark, you should check out his website.


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Hey JCHO, I been thinking about your situation and some of the things you've said. You are thinking of buying a 6" coater? The Hilliard's is about 10,000.00. I'm not sure of your production expectations. But a few notes on the coater.It is fairly easy for a new employee to use the machine, but I am able to hand dip faster then the machine. Machine enrobed centers require cooler room temps and air flow than hand dipped centers. You should call Hilliard's and ask for them to sell you a manual first. After Easter I won't even use my 6" until next season or for extra large orders. During the summer I can get by with a 10 pound RevX and two Hilliards 6 pounders. The daily routine is easier with the smaller machines. Though not complicated, the 6" is not a pleasant machine to clean and switch coatings. You might want to consider another 10 pound bowl, about 2,000 dollars depending on type. Then save the rest of your money and spend the summer looking for a used 6" machine. Just a idea, good luck!

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Thanks for the thoughts. I am really interested to hear that you can hand-dip faster than the 6" can coat. I haven't seen it in operation, so I guess I was just assuming it would be faster than I am. I am just using a Little Dipper now, so the jump in production might well be more than I need. I hadn't even thought about the RevX. I'll mull and ponder, and maybe get that manual before I commit.

Thank you!


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Just yesterday, I found a very interesting concept for a chocolate shop. In Honolulu, there is a shop called "Chocolate Sushi" where they sell both chocolate confections and sushi.


Then when I was finding this article again for you, I found these :



where they make what looks like sushi out of chocolate.

You may want to consider selling real hot chocolate -- not hot cocoa masquerading as "hot chocolate". Use a good high quality chocolate that has been properly mixed with milk and a tad of cream or a little half and half. (Mix slowly like you are making a mayonaise.) When on the stove, heat until the first bubble appears then remove. You can serve it immediately or, it is even better if you let it rest 24 hours then reheat.

This would be a nice match on your menu since you're planning on serving espresso. The closest thing the general public has to real hot chocolate is Starbuck's drink Chantico which really doesn't do it justice. It does take more time to prepare properly than espresso does and chocolate is more expensive than coffee but it would make a nice luxury treat.

I suspect that if more real hot chocolate was served, it would be a better competitor to coffee now -- as it was around the turn of the century.


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Art, I agree with you totally on the hot chocolate thing, and you taught me something. Since it's even better when made 24 hours ahead, I no longer have to worry about the extra time required to make it. I'll just make batches daily for the next day.



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