Choco-Logo is back.
The 27-year-old chocolate maker, which closed in May, has a new owner. But chocolatier Dan Johnson has returned to the kitchen and has already begun spinning out his popular confectionery delights such as Salty Turtles, Peppermint Bark, and the company's signature Nutcorn.
Bob Little, an Elma native and former corporate attorney in New York City, said he has always had an "entrepreneurial itch" and had always wanted to come home to the Buffalo region.
"I'd always been drawn back to Buffalo, and I always kept an eye out for an opportunity to return," Little said. "I'm so glad I can do it in a way that brings back this product that people know and love."
As Little researched Choco-Logo Confectionery Design, he found that everyone he spoke to lit up as they talked about it. They all seemed to love Johnson. They raved about his candy, and about how much they enjoyed visiting his Broadway retail store.
Little was impressed by Choco-Logo's following, and also liked that the factory and store were located just east of downtown, in a section of the city experiencing a renaissance.
When Little heard Johnson was looking to get out from the business side of the company and back into actual chocolate-making, he knew he had found his opportunity.
And Johnson had found his.
"I have found my dream job," he said.
The new arrangement with Little frees Johnson from the business side of things.
"I'm working on restoring corporate accounts and Dan can get back to doing what he loves and what he's frankly amazing at," Little said.
Choco-Logo had been a successful commercial candy maker and designer, and had major wholesale contracts with luxury department stores Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom. The core of its operation was producing custom-made confections for charities and logo-embossed chocolate gifts for corporations.
A soft opening of the retail shop, 141 Broadway, began Monday. Choco-Logo began taking corporate orders two weeks ago for old clients such as the Darwin Martin House and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. While the retail store will remain stocked with the same goodies as before, the company's main focus will be on corporate contract orders, such as corporate branded chocolates.
Johnson is a trained chef who once owned Lake Champlain Chocolates in Burlington, Vt. He listed Choco-Logo for sale in 2015, saying he was overwhelmed by the day-to-day paperwork, phone calls and building maintenance required to run the business. His greatest desire was to make chocolate but, when all was said and done, that had become a very small part of his job.
He bought the company in the early 1990s from the owners of what is now Make n’ Mold, a candy manufacturer in Black Rock. Choco-Logo operated out of rented spaces until Johnson bought and renovated the Broadway site through the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp. in 2004. A year later, it opened to the public with its factory retail store.