How Sweet It Is!
Christopher Daniels and his wife, Rhonda, of Centerport, are the first proprietors of a Chocolate World franchise, and it’s a sweet opportunity that came through Christopher’s military service.
Christopher’s friend Joe Whaley joined the family business, Fifth Avenue Chocolatiere, when he returned from active duty. The two met in 2000, served at the ruins of the World Trade Center in 2001 and were activated and deployed to Iraq for several years.
Today, Whaley is the head franchiser for Chocolate World and serves as the company’s president. After the company moved its chocolate factory from Queens to Valley Stream, they opened a small store there.
Early success there attracted attention from a New York City landlord, leading to the opening of their flagship Fifth Avenue Chocolatiere on Third Avenue in Manhattan. The Fifth Avenue Chocolatiere also has a major presence in Japan, where it sells through 30 retail kiosks in Japan and provides chocolates for Japan Airlines.
In Commack, Chocolate World, which celebrated its grand opening Sunday, focuses on three main business areas – selling chocolate, candy, truffles, ice cream and coffee at retail; hosting children’s birthday parties; and doing corporate sales.
Rhonda took charge of the décor and music at their new venture – Louis Armstrong is a frequent favorite on the sound system – and the result evokes a vintage ice cream store ambiance that connects with customers.
“When you walk in the front, you get a nostalgic, old type of parlor feel from the 1920s,” Christopher said.
Anything they don’t make in the store comes from their factory in Valley Stream. While they can make any sort of chocolate they want, all chocolate made in Commack is nut-free.
“This way, if someone has a nut allergy, which seems pretty common these days, they can still participate in the party,” Christopher said.
That’s important, because children’s birthday parties are a major driver of sales. During parties, children become a “chocolatier for a day” and learn about the history of chocolate and how it is made before putting their aprons on, picking a mold and pouring and decorating a piece of chocolate.
“That’s where the kids get all messy, with all the different color kinds of chocolate we have for them,” Christopher said.
Children also get to send a cookie, graham cracker or a pretzel through a machine, evoking the famous candy shop scene from “I Love Lucy” that covers it perfectly with chocolate before the children decorate it and eat it.
On the corporate front, Chocolate World can make gift baskets, molds of all shapes and sizes, and other gifts for companies.
“My mother’s a real estate agent, so she wants me to make 100 houses for her clients with her name on it,” Christopher said.
All the while, the couple still works full time – Christopher as a hedge fund trader in Manhattan, and his wife as a physician’s assistant. Together they’re raising two children, ages 15 and 12.
“It’s been a lot, but we’re getting through it,” Christopher said.
The initial success could certainly provide a bit of extra drive to keep plugging along.
“It’s been so successful that we’ve signed on for Plainview and the rest of Suffolk County,” he said.