Business: Tallarico’s Chocolates
Location: 26 E. Third St.
Owner: Brian Tallarico
Contact Info: 610-694-9950
What’s special/unique about your business?
“This is a retail/manufacturing business. I make 99.5 percent of everything I sell. I tell new customers when they come in, compare what I do to anyone else out there.” Tallarico is a one-man show in his storefront chocolate shop. He gets help from family members during his busiest seasons – Christmas and Easter.
What’s your most popular product?
Kona Crunch, a confection made with rough ground Kona coffee and chocolate; and Sea Salt Caramels, a sweet and savory morsel made with home-made caramel, dark chocolate and sea salt. Tallarico said he likes to experiment with sweet and savory mixtures. The combination of hot peppers and chocolate goes back centuries, he said. On Monday, he passed out samples of Cayenne Pepper Chocolates to customers. Trust us: It was good.
How have you weathered the recession?
While some of his corporate customers stopped buying when the economy went south, Tallarico said his retail sales picked up during the down economy and helped him balance out his bottom line. Even when times are tough, chocolate is a luxury people still think they can afford. “People self-medicate with chocolate and liquor,” he joked. “It’s an affordable luxury. It’s a feel-good item.” Now more and more of the corporate clients are starting to come back, he said.
Do you have a favorite story or anecdote about your business?
Tallarico keeps a world map behind his cash register with pins for every spot on the planet where someone has hand delivered his chocolates as a gift. (He doesn’t ship orders, though he said he is slowly working toward establishing an Internet ordering component to his business Website.) The pins touch every corner of the map, even Antarctica where he said one of his customers has a sister who works at an observation post. There is one curious spot in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The story behind that spot is a customer who had planned to deliver chocolates during a trip to Zimbabwe. But that particular customer decided to eat the chocolates during the flight instead.
Tell us about your history.
Tallarico grew up in Farrell, Pa., a city more than an hour north of Pittsburgh on the Ohio border. He said he always enjoyed helping out his parents and grandparents in the kitchen. One of his biggest influences was a year he spent in Tuscany when he was 14 years old. His father, a school principal, had taken a year off for sabbatical. As a teen-ager he worked part-time for a chocolatier with a small family business in Farrell. After graduating from Penn State University with a Fine Arts degree in metalworking, he went back home with designs on a career in the arts. But he soon went back to work for the chocolatier help him support his young family. He spent 12 years working for that business before deciding to strike it out on his own. He was looking at moving to suburban Cleveland before his brother, Sean, the now retired chief of police of Moravian College, convinced him to take a look at South Bethlehem. He opened up at 17 E. Third St. in 2004 before and moved to his current location three years later. "I've never second guessed that decision to make that move," said Tallarico, who expressed love for his new hometown and fellow business owners on Third Street.