On the Chocolate Trail

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It’s Chocolate Season

Chocolate season started on November 1 for Joanne and Jerry Kryszek’s company, Chocosphere. This is the busiest time in their on-line chocolate wholesale and retail company which operates from a warehouse in a Portland suburb. I have known about the company for years and finally had the opportunity to meet the Kryszek’s and see their operation a couple of weeks ago.

Chocolate is a second career for both and a full time passion. Jerry had always liked chocolate. Joanne never liked chocolate as a child. As an adult, she became hooked on the Belgian Cote d’Or milk chocolate that Jerry’s best friend brought back from his business trips abroad. She loved it. She depended on those imports and was stuck when he lost his travel budget. In the late 90’s Joanne’s job at the IRS was reinvented. Mourning her lost supply of chocolate, she proposed to Jerry that they start a chocolate internet business arguing, “it will be easy and we will make money.” He reminded her, based on his experience in the clothing business, that she would sleep it, eat it, and live it, 24/7. Soon they were planning a trip to Sweden to pick up a car for chocolate shopping and meeting suppliers in Europe.

To keep overhead low Chocosphere started out of their home. They opened by retailing only 6 brands in the fall of 1998. Now shipments arrive from their major sources every week and as chocolate season warms up, trucks deliver every day. Today they sell over 50 brands and more than 50% of the business is wholesale. I had to force my hands together to keep from reaching out to sample from the neatly organized piles of bars, minis, truffles, nibs and spreads.

Though still driving that same Volvo, Joanne’s chocolate tastes have evolved to preferring very high cocoa content, even 100% Damori. She now appreciates more about the nuances of beans and the complexities that produce quality chocolate. Their customer profile includes women and men. They have also seen customer expectations change, with people generally looking for higher cocoa content and European more than American. Men are discerning and enjoy broad tastes. Women seem more committed to one item, such as the customer who orders her weekly 3 kilo bag of Valhrona Noir. In the Northwest, women chocolate makers outnumber men.

At the very least, Jerry and Joanne have a constant supply of the best chocolate from around the world for themselves. And, even better, we have access to their curated selections.

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