Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Old World Confections Thrive at Li-Lac Chocolates

by Henry Jones

"It was the Easter season back in the early '90s. I walked into the tiny store on Christopher Street. I remember the smell of amazing sweet chocolate. They had chocolate bunnies everywhere, in every size and shape, with lots of color. There was a long line and the shop was crowded. I was in my late twenties – and felt like a kid again." This was Anthony Cirone's first introduction to the world of Li-Lac Chocolates.
To My Valentine Chocolates by Li-Lac Chocolates
Fast-forward twenty years, to 2008. Anthony was now a highly accomplished marketing executive. A veteran of Unilever, Anthony was developing brands at Bath & Body Works. “I knew I wanted to own a business. I didn't want to stay in the corporate world until I retired,” says Anthony, speaking by telephone from his Brooklyn confection factory. “I had been shopping around for years – and I sought something just like Li-Lac.”
Heart of Strawberries by Li-Lac Chocolates

One day Anthony realized he could buy Li-Lac Chocolates, itself. He wrote a letter to then-owner Martha Bond and received no response, but continued writing occasionally. “It took years – the company was sold after I wrote the letter to Martha Bond,” recalls Anthony. “One day the buyer, Kevin Merritt, agreed to sell, and we negotiated a price. It was surreal after a years-long pursuit to know I had finally bought Li-Lac Chocolates.”

The previous owners had moved the factory from Christopher Street to Brooklyn, carefully preserving the same equipment and process used since Li-Lac's 1923 founding. The retail location had moved to Jane Street. Anthony and his partner Christopher Taylor moved into action.
Forty-One Piece Heart of Truffles by Li-Lac Chocolates

“I used my branding experience, making Li-Lac's authentic, old-world chocolate speak to a modern audience through updated packaging designs and social media,” explains Anthony. “People are amazed when they visit the factory. Everything is made by hand from recipes unaltered since the 1920s. The ingredients are weighed on a century-old scale, and the chocolates made one at a time on eighty-year-old marble-topped tables.”

Li-Lac joined NGLCCNY as a Copper Business Member in 2012. It provided a chocolate station and gift bags containing star-shaped chocolates for Shining Stars in October 2012.
The Be My Valentine Chocolate by Li-Lac Chocolates

Li-Lac commissioned a mold to produce the first groom with groom chocolate sculpture. The sculpture stands two feet tall, making an impressive statement at trade shows and events. “People use chocolate several ways in weddings,” says Anthony. “For example, they might have a stand-alone chocolate station, or a chocolate section within a larger dessert station.” Li-Lac also has special chocolate menus and chocolate favor bags with heart-and-heart chocolates.

"Chocolate is a great business to be in. When people buy chocolate it is a happy occasion, about gifts and love. Owning Li-Lac is equal parts wonder and fun."

Li-Lac Chocolates is offering NGLCCNY members a free Be My Valentine chocolate with any purchase made on the Li-Lac website before February 12, 2013. Use promo code “bemine” at the end of your shopping at li-lacchocolates.com.

Henry Jones is Chief of Staff at NGLCCNY and an occasional contributor to the NGLCCNY News Blog.

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