Nothing starts your mouth watering more than the smell of
Nothing starts your mouth watering more than the smell of melting chocolate.
The De Brito Chocolate Factory, off Highway 25 on Briggs Road in a corrugated warehouse with an apricot painting on the front, may not make you think immediately about gourmet candy, but wait until you get inside.
“Chocolate talks to you,” said Alene De Brito. “It’s a challenge; you have to work with it and stroke it to get it to shine. It’s an art and a science.”
De Brito, a Hollister native, started out by experimenting in her kitchen. She couldn’t find a chocolate-dipped apricot she liked, so she worked at developing the right combination of chocolate and fruit using quality ingredients. Initially, the chocolate-dipped, dried apricot candies were made for friends, employees and customers of her husband Arnold’s farm implement business.
It didn’t take long before things got too busy to handle out of her kitchen. So as not to disappoint those who had come to anticipate the delicious candy, and so as not to put De Brito and her family in a dipping frenzy every holiday, there was only one thing to do – build a chocolate factory.
That was ten years ago. She started out in one room in her husband’s warehouse, with a 40 foot custom-made chocolate-coating machine.
“No more dipping!” De Brito said. “But soon I couldn’t handle it myself. I hired another person.”
During the slow months between Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter, De Brito would play around with ideas and create something new.
“I’d start with a recipe and then modify it,” she said. “Our toffee started that way.”
Today, there aren’t any slow times. She has built up a loyal local customer base, creates special products for private labels and has her products widely distributed across the country.
One of her most popular items is the designer candied apples. Handpicked Washington State Granny Apples are coated with layers of different ingredients, and bedecked with a bow. Between 500 and 1,000 of her 15 different gourmet apples are made each week.
“I let my imagination run wild,” she said. “They really are outrageous apples. My newest apple invention is the Volcano – it’s a combination of caramel, Butterfingers and coffee.”
De Brito pays close attention to what people like and what trends are emerging.
“Right now mixing chocolate and salt is a trend,” she said. “I’m experimenting with a Margarita candy apple, chocolate dipped potato chips, and chocolate and caramel pretzel fingers. Dark semi-sweet chocolate is very popular. When I was starting out I used almost exclusively milk chocolate, now it’s about half and half.”
With Easter just around the corner, De Brito is excited about the chocolate bunnies and chickens that will start production next week. The shop is already adorned with fuzzy yellow chicks and pastel ribbons.
“I like to create a wonderland for my customers, we even do ‘the Last Supper’ in chocolate,” she said.
Business is good; her attention to quality and her wild imagination is serving her well. She has a team of employees and her ideas are flowing as fast as her chocolate melts.
“I work with a wonderful group of ladies,” she said. “And as long as I’m continuing to make something totally unique, I’m happy.”
The De Brito Chocolate Factory is located at 160 Briggs Road in Hollister. For more information, call 800-588-3886.