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Family-run shop in Grand Haven becomes a chocolate destination

Chocolates by Grimaldi puts emphasis on local products and teaching sons the business.

June 20, 2014
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Chocolates by Grimaldi almost exclusively uses ingredients that come from West Michigan and other parts of the state. Photo by Rachel Weick

A lakeshore-based chocolate factory indulges the sweet tooth and the health nut alike.

Chocolates by Grimaldi, a chocolate factory and retail shop at 219 N. Seventh St., Grand Haven, is a chocolate enthusiast’s destination that specializes in crafting gourmet confections using local and Michigan ingredients.

Locally owned and operated, Chocolates by Grimaldi opened July 3, 2012, in the approximately 2,300-square-foot building, one block west of U.S. 31. Owner Molli Laham said the factory and shop was a result of her and her husband wanting to teach their sons about business.

“We wanted to show our sons how to start a business. We have friends that have a chocolate shop down in Florida. They were able to move their whole family from Wisconsin to Florida, said Laham.

“Everybody works in the chocolate shop together. That was the No. 1 enticement; it’s a place where our boys could learn about business.”

The decision to produce chocolate stemmed from knowing it was a consumer product in an affordable price range regardless of the state of the economy, Laham said.

“People are still going to be able to afford a treat like that — something that is going to make them feel good,” said Laham. “Everybody who comes into the chocolate shop is happy.”

The specialty shop not only produces chocolates, caramels and toffees but also hosts facility tours, is involved in fundraising with local schools, and participates in corporate gifting in the business community.

Laham said that, as a year-round operation, the shop’s location is accessible to customers travelling between Chicago and Northern Michigan.

“We are really glad that we chose this because we get a lot of traffic. We are busy all year, and the fact that we are a destination, we get a lot of people that come in for tours,” said Laham.

“In our tours, we don’t just show them our machinery; we actually start out with the cocoa pod and show them what it looks like when it comes off the tree, the process it goes through to become the chocolate, and the process it goes through to become the confections.”

The facility also provides space for the 38-foot enrober, which coats the products in chocolate and incorporates 20 feet of a cooling process to ensure the items remain crisp.

Some of the specialty products Chocolates by Grimaldi creates include dark chocolate trail bark, $14.95 for eight ounces; chocolate-covered pecans, $15.95 for eight ounces; solid chocolates at $12.95 for eight ounces; chocolate caramels with or without sea salt for $14.95; chocolate-covered pretzels for $12.95; and chocolate potato chips for $12.95.

Laham said the raw chocolate is purchased in bulk orders of 10,000 pounds roughly twice a year for approximately $10,000 to $15,000 per order. Additional expenses for the business include ingredients for the final products and maintaining a temperature required for the chocolate throughout the different seasons.

“Chocolate is expensive in itself,” said Laham. “You have to have it heated quite warm during the winter time, because the chocolate needs to be between 70 and 74 degrees. … With our high ceilings, it is difficult, so those are pretty hefty bills.”

In order to maintain cost-efficiency, Laham said each of the seven employees is able to work either on the production side or in the retail shop.

The chocolates are produced without preservatives and with minimal waxes, with caramel the only product incorporating corn syrup. For its chocolate-covered potato chips, the business uses Michigan-grown potatoes. Lightly salted roasted nuts come from Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. in Grand Rapids. According to Laham, toasted coconut is the only ingredient purchased outside of Michigan.

“We pride ourselves on that it’s natural. All of our recipes have five ingredients or less, so we kind of pride ourselves on that,” said Laham. “When we make the truffles, we take organic cream with our dark chocolate and, if we are doing a cranberry orange, we actually infuse the orange zest and the cranberries into the cream and then strain it so we just have the flavor from the fresh fruits in there.”

As Chocolates by Grimaldi celebrates its second anniversary next month, Laham said the company is looking to host classes for individuals interested in learning how to make chocolates and also expand further into the area of corporate gifting. The staff is planning to attend a corporate gifting show in Chicago in July, and is currently working with a source in the area who handles gifting for 2,500 companies, according to Laham.

“With the economy and all the regulations being put on corporate gifting, she said our product is going to be the perfect thing because we aren’t flashy; we aren’t real expensive,” said Laham. “It is a gift corporations can give without looking like they are not being very wise with their money.”

As a way to celebrate its second year in business, Chocolates by Grimaldi is offering discounts during the month of July, and cake and prizes on July 5. Customers also may enter a drawing at the end of the month to win a $50 gift certificate for the chocolate shop.

“Grand Haven has been amazing. We have Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg. I think they are really excited to have their own chocolate shop here; they have been really supportive,” said Laham. “It’s amazing. I think we couldn’t have picked a better community.”

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