Fort Mill Times

Lake Wylie chocolatiers taste sweet success

For Harold Logan and Alicia Griffith, the chocolate business hasn’t been easy and carefree, but it’s certainly sweet.

Carolina Chocolate Co. began more than a year ago, with three friends and a common interest in confection. The home office is in Lake Wylie, and the product is made in Steele Creek. The company serves about 20 retail locations, including Bagel Boat in Lake Wylie, The Wine Shop at RiverGate in Steele Creek, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont and Black’s Peaches in York.

All three are from Virginia. Dave Demchik went to high school with Griffith and now lives in Charleston. He crunches numbers for the business. Logan, who makes the chocolate, taught preschool alongside Griffith, who handles marketing.

“I make it taste good, she makes it look amazing and Dave keeps us both in line,” Logan said.

Logan moved to the area on scholarship at Johnson & Wales University. The chocolate business is his first. He helped talk Griffith, who had more business experience, into the venture.

“I have three kids, I’m married, I have a dog,” she told him. “I can’t cook the chocolate.”

Roles were agreed upon, and the PTA president was on board, given one condition.

“I said I’d sell it,” she said, “but it has to be good.”

It wasn’t always. An early coffee-chocolate combination missed the mark. But others improved. The first summer, the group set up shop at three outdoor festivals. They chalk that decision up to learning experience, too.

“We learned that chocolate and heat aren’t best friends,” Logan said. “But we had to go through that. We had to learn that.”

They’ve also learned how chaotic small business life can be. Like when Logan got a call the day before Valentine’s Day from The Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte asking if he could deliver 300 chocolates in 90 minutes.

“My eyes got big, and my mouth dropped,” Logan said.

Griffith had just enough stockpiled in her Lake Wylie home, and met Logan at a gas station halfway between their homes. They filled the order, and guests got their in-room amenities for the holiday.

“It pretty much wiped us out, but it was worth it,” Griffith said.

Frank Keefe, owner at Bagel Boat, knows how challenging it can be for a new business. He partnered with the chocolatiers to sell their product, because he said their passion behind the chocolate and the people supplying it set Carolina Chocolate apart.

“Small business people understand small business people better,” he said. “We’re all helping each other survive.”

Carolina Chocolate is a mix of artistry and efficiency, always trying new recipes and looking toward new markets. Handmade items are the specialty, including chocolates, candy bars, barks and dipped items. Local retailers, shows and events were the initial focus. Now, they’ve branched into fundraising. There even are custom items where coffee shops can supply their blends and have Carolina Chocolate use them to create candy bars.

“He gives it to me, and I incorporate it into the chocolate,” Logan said.

The chocolate makers have big dreams for their company.

“I always had that love of cooking, and I never knew what could become of it,” Logan said. “I don’t think any of us could have made it this far with this being a back burner business.”

The only people unhappy with the product may be Griffith’s children, who have a house full of chocolate they seldom get to touch.

“They say it’s actually the worst thing ever,” she said.