Life is Like A Box of Chocolates
The story of the Newfoundland Chocolate Company starts not with chocolate, but oddly enough with clay. You see it was clay that brought the husband and wife team of Brent and Christina together in the first place. It was this mutual love of crafting with their hands that led to the chocolate adventure which is the Newfoundland Chocolate Company story.
Christina and Brent were both graduate students at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Brent was a Geographer – a lover of maps and of the people, economies and cultures of the world’s most interesting places. Christina was a Neuroscientist – a lover of science and that amazing neurological wonder we have between our ears. Fortunately for the world of chocolate, both Brent and Christina had other, non-academic, interests during their MUN years which was what led Brent to sign up for a pottery lesson. The instructor was a pretty young thing and as the clay flew, so did the sparks and, well, to make a long story short, wedding bells followed as did two young sons and future chocolatiers Noah and Michael.
The idea of making chocolate came over time. It started way back before Brent walked into that pottery class and was a much younger Brent backpacking around Europe, discovering along the way that not all chocolate was created equal. Boy oh boy, did those Belgians ever make some good chocolate! After the epiphany that was European chocolate, the regular supermarket chocolate just wouldn’t do and so a weekly trip down to Brent and Christina’s favorite store, Auntie Crae’s was in order. It was the best spot in town for fine imported chocolates and Christina and Brent would spend a few of their precious, hard earned graduate student allowances on their chocolate indulgence. At the same time as their palates for fine chocolate were developing, Christina was also a potter and would sell her mugs and bowls at the local craft fairs. One day, as Brent toured the craft fair wondering if he might find a nice local chocolate to try, an idea was born.
It started as little more than a hobby really. Brent who had always been a barely passible carpenter, cobbled together a little room in the basement of their St. John’s home and outfitted it with a small chocolate melter, a few moulds and hand tools and they started to play. Brent’s passion for places opened up the world of cocoa bean origins and flavour nuances; Christina’s scientific passion influenced the choice of healthy dark chocolates and local ingredients like antioxidant-rich fresh berries. Both were crafty in their own ways and so the artisan approach of making chocolates by hand, the old fashioned way, just came naturally. Books were read, courses were taken and family, friends and neighbours were more than willing to be the chocolate testers when Brent and Christina showed up with a new box of creations and uttering the words “Hey, good to see you, here try this!” The consensus was unanimous – Brent and Christina were making some pretty darned good chocolate.
The move from hobby to business involved many hours sitting on the couch in the living room with sketch pads, dreaming and planning and dreaming again. The name of the company was a pivotal moment. Brent and Christina wanted their chocolate to be world class and so they played around with fancy European names for the chocolate, but they kept coming back to the first name that had come to mind – simply, the “Newfoundland Chocolate Company”. The name worked because the more the couple talked about the dream and what they wanted their company to be, the more they realized it was as much about their love of Newfoundland as it was about their love of chocolate. Their chocolate wouldn’t just be great chocolate; it would be great chocolate that told a story – a love story about Newfoundland and Labrador. And so the Newfoundland Chocolate Company was born.
Boxes weren’t just boxes of chocolates; they proudly displayed iconic scenes of the company’s namesake on the covers and instead of just descriptions of the chocolates inside the box, there were maps of Newfoundland and Labrador. For example, the Smiling Land Series would feature all Newfoundland berries and each chocolate would be named for beautiful Newfoundland places like Brigus, the Gros Morne and Cape St. Mary’s. The bars would feature those iconic jellybean houses that dot the streets of St. John’s with their colour and character and when it came time to name the Easter Bunnies, well they just had to be Joey, Danny and Clyde after some of Newfoundland’s most famous or infamous Premiers. And, when terms of endearment were chosen for the valentine’s day bars, they wouldn’t say, ‘be mine’, they’d say ‘Me Duckie’ and ‘Some Sweet’. Everything about the Newfoundland Chocolate Company would be a celebration of not only delicious artisan crafted chocolate but of the culture, beauty and charm of Newfoundland. Brent and Christina’s vision was to bring Newfoundland and Labrador to the world by making the most delicious, most artistically crafted and beautiful chocolates around.
In May of 2008 the first box of Newfoundland Chocolate Company Chocolates was sold at a local craft show. Soon thereafter, Belbin’s Grocery in historic Quidi Vidi became the first store to carry the chocolates and others quickly followed.
The first Christmas season was wonderfully exhausting and exhilarating. They’d make chocolate into the wee hours of the morning, package and drop it to their handful of retailers before work or during lunch. They’d get back from their day jobs, enjoy some family time, put the kids to bed and …. start all over again.
After their first Christmas in business, Christina and Brent, sat down again in the living room with a fire in the hearth and a nice bottle of wine and decided to take the plunge. Brent would give up his full time job and focus his energies on building the Newfoundland Chocolate Company. Christina would hold onto hers for a while yet … just in case! They bought the historic building on Duckworth Street that would become the company’s first chocolaterie and new headquarters.
The Newfoundland Chocolate Company family has grown by then from Brent, Christina, Noah, Michael and the company’s first employee and dear, sweet friend Yvonne to include many other past and present employees and proud ambassadors of Newfoundland Chocolate. Today the Company employs over one hundred wonderful, talented and hard-working Newfoundland Chocolate artisans and ambassadors. Today’s Newfoundland Chocolate Company team bring the same pride, passion and love for chocolate and Newfoundland as the company’s founders have since 2008.