Rich Tradition: Chocolate Franchisor Adds New Twist

ORLANDO, FL | Friday, October 07, 2005

When it comes to making business decisions or playing hunches, Edgar Schaked intuitively gets it right most of the time.

Maybe it has to do with his upbringing in a family that proudly wears its entrepreneurial spirit like a badge of honor.

First there was his grandfather, who began the family tradition of making chocolates in Germany. The tradition was taken to Argentina where Schaked grew up watching his father make chocolates and turn the operation into a profitable business.

From Argentina to Miami and then to Orlando, success has followed the Schakeds wherever they go. Now, 10 years after opening his first Schakolad Chocolate Factory store in Winter Park, Schaked is busy spinning off franchises -- 32 at last count -- across the state and country. He even has locations in the Bahamas and Israel. "In the chocolate business it`s very difficult to learn from a book," says Schaked, who graduated from Florida International University as a mechanical engineer, but could not shake off the family`s chocolate tradition. "I want our brand to be all over." Sit down & stay awhile Always trying to tweak a good thing, Schaked recently added a twist to the new franchises -- a cafe component where customers can have a seat, drink hot or cold chocolate, a specialty coffee drink, or gelato (Italian ice cream).

"Our stores have so many things it`s overwhelming," Schaked says. "With a cafe, the customers are going to sit down and stay longer. They are going to start looking (and) most likely buy something else." Mark Lecato, who opened a Schakolad franchise in St. Petersburg almost a year ago, likes the cafe concept. "We have a few little tables where people come in and have a white chocolate mocha or latte," says Lecato. "We have a nice little atmosphere." Lecato says the business is enjoying success in its first year and he loves the work. "It`s nice to make people happy -- and 99 percent of the time chocolate makes people happy." Investment paying off Joe Mazza bought his Schakolad franchise in Winter Park, 480 N. Orlando Ave., two years ago before the cafe concept was in place. Mazza says he is investing about $5,000 to add the cafe ambiance to his store, which will include equipment and inventory. "It will be a nice help in the summertime when it gets slow," says Mazza. "I`m hoping the gelato will carry us in July and August." Mazza is hoping the cafe addition will increase sales by more than 5 percent. He says sales for 2004 were $330,000, and he projects sales of $400,000 this year.

Schaked, who receives $30,000 upfront, plus a marketing fee and royalties from franchise holders, derives some pleasure from seeing his brand do well. After all, he and his father, Baruch (Bernie), personally train them in all aspects of the business. In addition, he loves to see the family name -- combined with chocolate to come up with Schakolad -- sprouting up with every franchise that`s established. "We came to the United States to make our American dream happen," says Schaked. "We are choosy as to who we give our recipes to. It`s rewarding to give that American dream to others."

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Schakolad Chocolate Factory
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