Schakolad: Columbus` Very Own Chocolate Factory

COLUMBUS | Saturday, October 01, 2005

The words “chocolate factory” are there, but there’s not a Willy Wonka, Charlie, or even an oompa-loompa in sight. Instead, Schakolad Chocolate Factory, located at 583 N. High Street one of the fresh, new stores along the Cap at Union Square is a confection of its own. Molds of all kinds march along a chocolate-brown wall, chocolate novelties line shelves, then there are the gleaming glass cases full of chocolate truffles and filled chocolates of every description. White, milk, dark, take your pick. Even if you have a favorite chocolate coating, you’ll stumble over the choice of centers. Everyone does. The selection is just too difficult.

Schakolad opened a year ago this month, under the ownership of Anna and Joe Stossel. Joe continues to work for the Defense department Anna left her position there to work full-time in the shop.

You can tell she has no regrets.

“The project I worked on for the Defense department had me traveling a lot,” she says. That may be fine for some people, but Anna is also the mother of Jordan, 7, and Troy, 5, and she missed the time she could have spent with them, if not for the traveling.

So, she and Joe began to earnestly look for a business that Anna could move into, and Joe could help with. The pair looked for a year, maybe longer, and in the meantime, Anna kept traveling to Washington D.C. primarily and staying not far from the Schakolad Chocolate Factory in Crystal City.

An owner-operated franchise Schakolad is actually a collection of individually owned shops, all modeled after the original Schakolad in Winter Park, Florida in other words, a franchise, without the company ownership. Baruch Schaked was the original candy-maker, learning his skill from his father-in-law who happened to own the largest chocolate shop in South America. When Baruch Schaked retired, his son Edgar took over and opened the shop in Winter Park. Four years later, he developed the franchise system.

Anna Stossel took to visiting the Crystal City shop frequently and talking with its owner.

“I liked the concept that the chocolates were made fresh, right there on the premises,” she says. Although Stossel does not have a professional candy-making background, she received two weeks of training in the company’s Orlando headquarters and she says a tradition of candy-making runs in the family. “It was always something I liked to do,” she says.

Now, it’s a passion she’s pursuing fulltime with help from Joe, and their two children. Yes the children really do help. Both pitch in to tie ribbons on baskets, put candy in those frilly white paper cups in which the truffles and filled chocolates are presented, and they help clean up.

“Jordan enjoys working with the molds,” says Anna, “and she’s really quite good.” Troy likes working at a chocolate shop just fine, he says but not for the reason you might think.

“He gets to use the computer here,” says his mother. Disney.com is a favorite. But so are Buckeyes and peanut-butter cups, two of the candies the Stossels make and sell, and which have won Troy’s heart.

At the end of the day, his mom says she likes to take home the chocolate-covered strawberries, hand-dipped at the store. “They’re perishable,” she rationalizes. Find your favorite filling No doubt, you’ll find your own favorites. After all, there are 70 varieties. In addition to the Buckeyes, peanut-butter cups and fresh, hand-dipped, chocolate-covered strawberries already mentioned, Schakolad also sells chocolates filled with Grand Marnier, Italian Amaretto, Jamaican rum, and Champagne ganache. Or opt for a cappuccino, mocha, orange, or white butterscotch truffle (and that’s just a sample of the truffles available.) There are milk and dark chocolate-covered marzipan, and hazelnut pralines; and for the purists, like me, solid milk and dark chocolate, sold in small turtle shapes and even bars. Opt for the dark. It’s dense, rich, and smooth the way chocolate is supposed to taste.

When asked about customer favorites, Stossel says it depends on what kind of chocolate they prefer. Raspberry ganache is favored by dark chocolate lovers; the champagne truffle sprinkled with small gold stars is the pick for milk chocolate fans, and for white chocolate aficionados, it’s a tie between cheesecake ganache and the key-lime truffle. Schakolad sells chocolate novelties (like chocolate body paint), sugar-free and low-carb chocolates (for those who insist on being very good), and chocolates molded into seasonal shapes like jack-o-lantern lollipops for Halloween. For those, Anna turns to one of the many molds lining the wall. The molds are not for sale. But you can see the many forms available to you if you’d like to have something a little different than what’s for sale in the shop. And if the Stossels don’t have it hanging on their wall, they’ll order it for you. “We can generally turn out custom-molded chocolate in 20 to 40 minutes,” says Stossel. As for her most unusual order, it was probably the white chocolate skeletal spines she molded for a pharmaceutical manufacturer promoting an osteoporosis drug.

Corporate businesses, like the drug company, makes up 50% of Schakolad’s business, but their wedding business is beginning to grow. Attention all engaged couples: Schakolad can prepare place-cards or wedding favors for your guests, made of chocolate (of course) with the wedding date and couple’s name written in white chocolate or on edible rice paper.

Two Oreos in a fountain “We also rent our chocolate fountains, and those are really popular with wedding parties,” Anna Stossel says.

If you would like to see the chocolate fountains in action, stop by Schakolad on Gallery Hop night.

There, you’ll find a large fountain dripping milk chocolate and a smaller fountain overflowing with dark chocolate. Next to the fountains are trays filled with cups of “dippable” items like strawberries, bananas, pineapple, Oreo cookies, marshmallows, biscotti, pretzels, tiny cream puffs, and more. For $1, you can buy a cup filled with two items to dip into your choice of chocolate but if you can stop with just those two treats, you have more will power than most of the 1,000 plus visitors who stop by during a typical Gallery Hop night.

“We started out staffing the store with just ourselves and added family members on Gallery Hop nights,” says Stossel.

The shop is busy enough now to warrant hiring an additional four part-time people “they’re the equivalent of two full-time people,” says Stossel.

If there is a secret to Schakolad chocolate, it lies not just in the freshness of the candy, but in the process of making the chocolate itself.

This is not a Dutch process, explains Stossel. It’s European. That means the cocoa beans are roasted rather than boiled or blanched, and every effort is made to ensure that the cocoa beans are all the same size before they are roasted. “That way, you don’t have some of the beans burning up because they are smaller than others, and don’t need to be roasted as long.” What emerges, then, is the smooth, rich chocolate you might find in European shops.

Decadent cocoa If you want to be truly decadent, ask the Stossels to prepare a hot chocolate for you.

You’ll begin by choosing the kind of chocolate you’d like to drink milk, dark, or white. Your selection will be dropped into a cup and hot milk will be poured over it, melting the chocolate and mingling with the milk. Take the steaming rich brew out to one of the outside tables on a crisp fall morning, or a cool evening, and people-watch. Does autumn in Columbus get much better than this? Well, it could, of course.

You could have the same drink iced, or ask to have coffee poured over your chocolate instead. (Schakolad serve other coffee drinks as well, so stop by and check out the menu.) The Stossels have also teamed with Denise’s Ice Cream, so you can find her ice creams made with Schakolad chocolate, of course for sale in the Stossels shop.

Recently, gelato has been added to the range of choices greeting the Schakolad customer.

“Denise only makes the gelato for us. You won’t find this in her Clintonville shop,” says Stossel. And you won’t find chocolates like those found at the Schakolad Chocolate Factory anywhere else in Columbus. Or, for that matter, at any other chocolate factory.

It’s enough to make Willy Wonka turn green (or is it chocolate-brown?) with envy.

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