Eve Neuhaus says one of the best things about running a chocolate business is that people leave the store with a smile on their face.
Neuhaus and her husband, Tom Neuhaus, now want to allow a new owner to offer this happiness to customers.
Their store in San Luis Obispo, Mama Ganache artisan chocolates, is for sale. The Neuhauses, who plan to retire, hope to complete the deal by March 31, the expiration date of their lease at 1445 Monterey St.
“We had a great time running the store, but we look forward to retirement and plan to move to France,” said Eve Neuhaus. “We have had a few offers, but nothing has worked yet.”
The couple have operated the business in San Luis Obispo since 2004. It was once on the neighbor’s floor. Splash coffee on Monterey Street, owned and operated by Joanne Currie, Tom’s sister.
The Neuhauses moved the store, formerly known as Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates, across the street to its current location in 2009 when the sales post became vacant.
They said the company generates around $ 500,000 in gross revenue per year. About one-third comes from online sales, one-third from in-store purchases, and one-third from wholesale.
The store lease is $ 2,000 per month in approximately 1,100 square feet of space. The company also rents a small portion of a warehouse in downtown San Luis Obispo to store some of its products. The new owner could continue to use the warehouse.
“I think chocolate has a great future,” said Tom Neuhaus. “And like the wine industry. I think there is a change that occurs when chocolate companies move to smaller operations and move away from the big companies that dominate the industry. I think this can be a very successful business for a local owner.
Tom neuhaus taught in the Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition at Cal Poly from 2000 to 2015, and he taught cooking and baking at Cornell University before that. He has also visited Africa more than a dozen times to help West African cocoa farmers through humanitarian efforts.
The store’s products – including truffles, candies, chocolate cats, teas and coffees – are almost all made from 95% organic ingredients, Tom Neuhaus believes.
About 98% of the store’s products are purchased in manufactured form and 2% are made at the back of the store, from “bean to bar”. The coffee beans they buy come from 19 countries, including countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Asia.
“We have longtime employees who know how to make all of our products, and they ran the store when we were away for two weeks around Christmas,” said Eve Neuhaus. “A new owner may have experience, but they don’t necessarily need it. The store is ready for someone to come in, turn the key, and get started.
Mom Ganache fair trade and organic certifications maintained until 2016, and although it no longer has the certification, its products are either organic, fair trade or directly sourced, according to the owners.
Ganache is a French word for chocolate and cream, and the “Mama” in the store’s name should inspire a sense of education, Tom Neuhaus told The Tribune.
The store’s peak sales season is between Christmas and Easter, including Valentine’s Day, which helps boost business for the rest of the year, Eve Neuhaus said. The couple sold up to a few thousand dollars worth of chocolate in a single day during peak season.
The Neuhauses, both 67, say they enjoyed the people entering the store, many of whom are regulars, and the process of making and selling chocolate, which they call an art.
They have partnered with many wineries to offer chocolate at events and have tasted and hosted Art after dark events, combining Malbec tastings and chocolate tastings.
“Chocolate is really the next wine,” said Tom Neuhaus. “There is a history, an anthropology and a physiology of taste that is absolutely fascinating about chocolate, and I think it could take off the same way as wine.”
They settle in France partly to be close to friends who live there and also to be closer to one of their five children, who lives in Rome. Eve Neuhaus’s parents fled France during World War II and she is working on a non-fiction book about their experience.
“And the French cuisine is amazing,” said Tom Neuhaus.
This story was originally published January 29, 2018 4:27 pm.