Around the holiday season a year ago, Canyon Country resident Gretchen Zovak outgrew her kitchen making treats for those with a sweet tooth.
“Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was so busy doing everything and recruiting everybody that wasn’t doing anything to help,” she said jokingly as she stared at her two sons.
Just how busy? An estimated 110 boxes, filled with homemade chocolate collections of 14 pieces each, sold within that time frame.
Although not the ideal size, she said, Zovak found a solution she and her family, including sons Colin Caneday and Connor McElligott, could work on for starters: a drive-thru location in Canyon Country. A soft opening was held Feb. 1.
The Chocolate Pub, located at 18715 Soledad Canyon Road, which was once Onyx Coffee Lab, is one that passersby can’t miss despite its small width. Dressed in orange paint and purple swirl designs— think Tim Burton meets Willy Wonka — customers are greeted with a large welcome sign that reads, “Coffee and Candy… with a Twist.”
And that’s exactly what one can find. Besides selling everything consumers can purchase at a coffee shop, including lattes, cappuccinos, teas and pastries, Zovak’s best-selling items are her chocolates with a twist.
“A few years ago I turned cocktails into chocolate,” she said. Known as the HappyHour chocolate collection, which she first started selling online at Etsy, Zovak’s handmade treats are bar drink-inspired concoctions. All her products are non-alcoholic and made using extracts.
Chocolate enthusiasts can find flavors in the collection named Margaritas, Mojitos, Banana Daiquiris, Rum & Coke and Jager Bomb. Materials in the Irish Car Bomb, for example, include layered Jameson, Baileys and Guinness buttercreams enrobed in 42 percent milk chocolate.
For those on the vegan side of treats, Zovak has you covered. She offers the same collection with an all-vegetable alternative to butter, including for white chocolate bites.
This option was really what kicked off her business, Zovak said.
“My husband’s sister went vegan and she couldn’t eat the candy anymore,” she said. “I made her a box of a white and dark vegan collection but she was like, ‘Yeah, I miss the milk chocolate.’ So, I figured out how to make a chocolate mix vegans can try. I put those online and that’s when everything went insane.”
To aim for that milk flavor, The Chocolate Pub’s own blend, dubbed Faux Milk chocolate, is used with 72-percent cacao organic vegan dark chocolate as a substitute for milk chocolate.
With the help of her children, nephews and sister, who help run The Chocolate Pub, Zovak said she’s thrilled to see it all come together as a small business for the local community.
“It’s important to me that we keep local businesses going otherwise everything will soon be corporate chains,” said Zovak.
Caneday said their suppliers are also local, with coffee and teas from Alessandro Caffe in Valencia and pastries from California Bakery & Cafe on Soledad Canyon Rd. The Chocolate Pub also gives back, as it’s already offering discounts to veterans and giving a percentage of sales to local organizations.
Although The Chocolate Pub just opened, the family said they plan to expand their business by opening a larger coffee shop with more employees in the adjacent building, currently occupied by Feathers Signs, Printing, & Wraps, which is set to relocate soon. Their current shop in use could remain as a drive-thru in their future plans, said McElligott.
To learn more about the business and to find out when their official website launches, visit The Chocolate Pub on Facebook.