674 South Avenue | Rochester, NY 14620 | 585.461.2815 | Open 10am-9pm


Our Blog: Chocolate Talk

Press Release: Chocolate Grand Opening and Anniversary

New Shop1Hedonist Artisan Chocolates started out in a tiny shared kitchen space down a dark alley off South Avenue in 2007. Owners Jennifer Posey and Zahra Langford sold their first chocolates from a makeshift counter inside Equal Grounds Coffee House. This month, the company will celebrate 5 years of building a successful business with the grand opening of their new retail space at 674 South Avenue. The event will take place on Thursday, January 26 from 4-6pm. Posey and Langford came to Rochester in 2005 for Langford's job as a user interface designer at Xerox. Posey had an interest in making food and experimenting with flavors, especially for holiday celebrations. Langford had wanted to own a sweet shop since she was a little girl (her parents did not allow their children to eat much sugar growing up). The couple had always dreamed of starting a small business. When they moved to Rochester, they saw the opportunity to bring their interests together when they realized that the city did not have an artisan chocolate company. The couple started experimenting with making chocolate truffles at home in late 2006, but to get their business off the ground they needed a licensed kitchen space. They were very lucky to find one at the back of the building at 674 South Avenue, just minutes from their home in the Highland Park neighborhood. The small space (350 s.f.) had been created by another company that made artisan ice creams, but they only used it at night. The ice cream company agreed to rent to the couple for use during the day. Posey and Langford wrote their business plan and designed a logo; they registered the name of their business as Hedonist Artisan Chocolates on January 27, 2007. Hedonist grew their business slowly, but soon gained the attention of local foodies. They initially sold their chocolates wholesale or on commission to other businesses, but eventually added retail sales at www.hedonistchocolates.com and local farmer's markets and craft fairs. The company didn't have a lot of money to spend on advertising so their primary form of marketing was chocolate tastings at various events around the area; they gave samples of their product away for free and talked to people about why it was special. During these conversations, people inevitably asked "Where's your shop?" The answer was a little complicated, Posey or Langford would have to explain that they didn't have their own shop but customers could get their chocolate at a coffee shop or online. Towards the end of 2008, the company gained exclusive use of their kitchen when the ice cream company went out of business. They decided to try selling chocolate from there and arranged the already limited space to accommodate a single shelf of boxed chocolate truffles and bark, a wall mounted truffle display and a steel table to hold the point of sale system as well as form a barrier to keep customers out of the chocolate-making area. The location was not ideal, hidden down an alley off the street, but Posey and Langford made it work. They added lots of signage with arrows, a decorative gate and pretty lights to help chocolate-seekers find them. What the spot did offer was a unique exposure to a working artisan chocolate kitchen. Customers loved the smell of melted chocolate and watching chocolate being made. Having a retail location to direct people to was a huge improvement for the company; it generated a new level of exposure that attracted more retail customers and wholesale accounts. Hedonist has continued to grow their business over the next few years. Major milestones include hiring their first employees, establishing a chocolate counter at Parkleigh (Rochester's premiere gift shop and one of the only other sources for artisan chocolate in town), yearly sponsorship of the ImageOut GLBT film festival, establishing a blog and a Facebook page, and receiving coverage in local media as well as national mentions in Country Living and Fast Company magazines. The company was making more chocolate and hiring more people, but they were still doing it in the same 350 s.f. space and it was getting pretty crowded in there. In 2010, Posey and Langford learned that the owner of the 674 South Avenue building they rented space in was interested in selling. They jumped at the opportunity, but it took them over a year to get the deal finalized. They worked with the City of Rochester and REDCO to secure the financing. They closed on the building at the end of July, 2011. In addition to their existing kitchen space and storage area at the back of the building, they now had two storefronts on South Avenue, a large room behind the storefronts and two apartments upstairs. Although Hedonist closed on the property in July, they weren't able to take possession of it until September 1st. Since the holidays are the biggest sales season for the company, they needed to any major renovations completed by Thanksgiving. However, they had to do this while still maintaining their current retail and wholesale business. Posey and Langford did much of cleaning, painting and repair work themselves, with some help from friends and neighbors. They decided to use the biggest storefront as their primary retail space and the smaller storefront as a show kitchen/tasting room. The large room behind the storefronts was converted into an office and storage space, while the existing kitchen was kept the same. Most of the space was already interconnected, so they only had to open up one wall. Major upgrades include a state-of-the-art heating and cooling system, beautiful Brazilian Walnut hardwood floors and a tin ceiling. They also built a custom display to showcase their individual truffles. They decorated the space simply, using their signature brown and white. Nearly three months isn’t really a lot of time, but they managed to get all the high priority stuff done and opened at 10am on Black Friday (November 25) in 2011 for holiday sales. Customers have been delighted with the new space and the company is gaining more exposure from their street presence on South Avenue. After a busy holiday season, the company is taking some time to celebrate their achievements and 5 Year Anniversary with a Grand Opening of the retail space on January 26, 2011. The ribbon cutting will be at 4pm. Assemblymember Harry B. Bronson will be there to say a few words. Afterwards there will be light snacks, cake and, of course, chocolate!

Additional Information

Hedonist chocolate truffles are available for purchase at their retail location at 674 South Avenue or online at www.hedonistchocolates.com. They can also be purchased at many gift and specialty shops in Rochester and the Finger Lakes region (for a complete list, visit the Locations page on their website). At the Hedonist shop and at Parkleigh on Park Ave., chocophiles can create their own custom assortment at the chocolate counter. Prices range from $12-$34 per box. Hedonist also does business gifts, event favors, party platters, gift boxes and private chocolate tastings. For more information about Hedonist Artisan Chocolates, visit www.hedonistchocolates.com or contact Jennifer Posey at (585) 461-2815. Hedonist Artisan Chocolates hand crafts truffles and chocolate treats with French chocolate and fresh, natural ingredients. Each piece of Hedonist chocolate has a character all its own because it is rolled, cut, dipped and decorated by human hands in small batches. A hedonist is someone whose life is devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasures. Owners Jennifer Posey and Zahra Langford find their bliss in chocolate and hope to help you do the same.

 
Pleasure, handcrafted. Hedonist Artisan Chocolates are handmade with fresh ingredients to give as gifts or indulge yourself.
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