Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
Sometimes, Mariel thinks Francisco and I have the coolest jobs in the world.
Like when we’re invited to tour chocolate factories and eat lots of chocolate.
Yesterday, we headed down to Sunset Park to visit Li-Lac’s new chocolate factory and, of course, sample the wares.
Li-Lac’s an interesting hold-out in a world of artisanal bean-to-bar chocolatiers, among them other Brooklyn-based chocolate producers, Mast Brothers, Raaka, Tumbador, and Cacao Prieto, to name just a few. Li-Lac, which was founded in New York in 1923, prides itself on being “stubbornly old-fashioned” (in fact, that’s its tagline). While those other chocolatiers are dabbling in novel flavor combinations (I happen to love Raaka’s bourbon cask aged and vanilla rooibos raw chocolate bars), wrapping their bars up in fancy packaging that sometimes costs as much as the chocolate itself, and promoting the backstory of their beans and who produced them, Li-Lac is doing just fine with its handmade bestsellers. During a tour of the factory, we were told that customers won’t let Li-Lac “get all fancy.” “They like the flavors they tasted 20 years ago and they don’t want us to change them,” said Anthony Cirone, president and co-owner of Li-Lac. Nostalgia trumps innovation and it seems to be a business model that’s working just fine for them.
Our visit to Li-Lac was for a media preview, but the grand opening to the public will take place on Saturday, November 22, from 11am-5pm. There will be free chocolate, of course. Visitors will be able to see the production line, where chocolates are “enrobed” and finished off with a hand-drawn “signature.” And if they don’t get enough sweet treats during the visit, they can purchase some more in the on-site store.