Local, Handmade, Premium Chocolates
Chocolate (times three!) equals lots of delicious fun!
Founded in 1981, Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company has eight locations, in the St. Louis area, including one at 1743 Clarkson Road in Chesterfield. The Chesterfield location opened about 12 years ago, said Vice President, Christina Abel, whose parents, Dan and Rosalie Abel, own the company.
After years of studying the art of handcrafting small batches of premium chocolates and apprenticing with master candy makers nationwide, founder Dan Abel of St. Louis came back to his home town to open his own candy company, Abel said.
“In February of 1981, he opened his first Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company store in a shopping center at Clarkson and Clayton roads, which was relocated to 6740 Chippewa Street in St. Louis about 26 years ago – that store still operates,”Abel said.
Abel said her father’s business concept was simple – to source the finest ingredients in the world and blend them together in small batches.
Today, Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company is a second generation chocolate company, with Dan and Rosalie working alongside Christina and her younger brothers Dan Jr. and Christopher. The family of candy makers works with a talented staff of artisan chocolatiers with over 100 years of combined confectionery experience.
In 2002, Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company began franchising its retail store concept.
Customers in a number of locations were asking for stores closer to home,” Abel said.
The franchise stores were designed to represent the original St. Louis store, and each store has a small kitchen to make fresh chocolates on the premises to ensure customers will receive only the freshest products.
In 2009, the Abel family re-launched the legendary Mavrakos chocolate brand after holding the recipe book passed down from the Mavrakos owners in 1984. In 2011, Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company created a gourmet wholesale division which wholesales its line of chocolates across the United States.
In 2012, the family opened a 30,000 square-foot state-of-the-art chocolate factory on St. Louis’ Hill at 5025 Pattison Ave. About 30 people work at the factory, where original recipes from the turn of the century are slowly cooked in copper kettles and stirred by hand. Chocolates are hand decorated or ‘striped’ and polished before being packaged into boxes. Premium ingredients are used in all chocolates including: fresh whole milk, fresh whipping cream, pure cane sugar, grade AA butter, pure Madagascar vanilla, fresh fruit, all natural milk and dark chocolate — made with Fair Trade Certified ingredients.
In 2014, Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company converted 100 percent of the cocoa and cane sugar to Fair Trade Certified ingredients. Those ingredients provide farmers a better wage and better quality of life, Abel said, adding that all of the fair trade premiums that Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company pays go directly to cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast and sugar farmers in Belize.
“We produce, easily, over 100,000 pounds of chocolate a year,” Abel said. “It’s a great perk to work with my family – we see each other every day. Also, working with chocolate is fun – there are different products depending on the season, so they’re constantly changing.”
Abel also loves working with retail customers.
“You’ll see people come in to order chocolates for weddings or rehearsal dinners and, years later, order chocolates for baby showers or first birthday parties,” she said.
“You’re part of amazing events and milestones, which also makes the job exciting. All of our chocolates come with a smile in every box, we say.”
Their locations in the St. Louis region offer everything from gourmet boxed collections, artisan barks and Mavrakos chocolates to everyday snacks. Their most popular products include PB&J truffles, sea salt caramel cubes, peanut butter pretzel cubes, artisan truffles and chocolate covered strawberries. Cost range is $5.95 to $49.95 depending on the product and amount.
“A new trend that’s interesting to me is that more people, because of information available about the health benefits, are shifting to trying or changing over to eating dark chocolate, so it’s gaining in popularity even though it’s richer and not quite as sweet – though not bitter – as milk chocolate,” Abel said.
The factory – designed and built for the company’s national wholesale expansion – allows people to take free tours six days a week to watch chocolates being made.
Abel said visitors are shown the candy kitchen and taken on to the factory floor to see, smell and taste chocolates.
“We show you our chocolate “enrobers” – the I-Love-Lucy-type machines that cover the candy with chocolate,” Abel said. “More than 50,000 visitors each year take tours.”
Tours are from 9 am to 3 pm, Mondays through Fridays and 9 am to 1 pm Saturdays, running every half hour except from noon to 12:30 pm.
Tour reservations are recommended in general, required for Saturday tours and/or groups of six or more.
Abel said, “Tours are one of many ways the company tries to thank our customers, who have helped us grow – we’re so grateful to them.”
A featured product this month at Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company, especially for Valentine’s Day, is chocolate-covered strawberries.
“Valentine’s Day is the one holiday, in our business, where customers can procrastinate on buying – strawberries are perishable so you can wait until the last minute to get your valentine a gift,” she said.
Abel warns that chocolate absorbs odors – so don’t keep it in the refrigerator near foods like onions, or that flavor will be picked up. “You can keep regular chocolates at room temperature but the chocolate-covered strawberries do have to go in the refrigerator – away from the onions!” Abel said