Work Life

Two chocolatiers are building a luxury brand in our backyard

barCHOCOLATE co-founders Lin McKay and Mike Shafer are bringing an exotic flair to the local food scene with their handmade luxury chocolates. They invited me to visit their production facility outside uptown. I ruined my dinner eating so much.

#CHOCOLATE!!! Stop by @greeneman_farms in for some samples and deliciousness!! We will be here until 2p today! #cltfood #barchocolateclt #bonbon

A photo posted by barCHOCOLATE (@barchocolateclt) on Apr 4, 2015 at 9:20am PDT

Here’s why you should try their chocolate:

1. The owners are rad dudes who work hard.

Business partners for over 15 years, but friends for even longer, McKay and Shafer tried other business ventures before finding their niche in the world of chocolate. Mike’s background is in communications and media sales, while Lin studied chemistry and German. The chemistry background becomes evident as soon as you walk in the production facility, as it resembles a scientist’s lab.

A typical day is 12 to 14 hours in the production facility hand-making and hand-painting chocolate. As the sole barCHOCOLATE staff members, they sell and market their products as well.

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2. Local connection.

“Being local is super important to us and using small business,” McKay said. “Mike and I both grew up in entrepreneurial families so we know exactly how important it is and how difficult it is.”

Queen City’s Salts of the Earth provides countless salts used in a variety of barCHOCOLATE’s products, including the pop rocks used in the Coriander Pop Rocks Praline. Think about what would happen if luxury chocolate romanced a package of Cracker Barrel pop rocks – this is that vision times a zillion.

The buzzing ingredients are local, too: raw honey comes from nearby Cloister Honey and bee pollen from Indian Trail’s Berry’s Bees. I tried some raw pollen, which tasted pretty weird, but barCHOCOLATE’s Bee Pollen Praline was nothing short of intoxicating.

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3. They are all-natural.

barCHOCOLATE’s products are made of all-natural ingredients and single-origin (from one region or farm) chocolate. The finished product has a three-month shelf life and the chocolate they use can only be grown within 20 degrees north and south of the equator, making it some of the most expensive chocolate in the world.

“When we’re introducing [people] to our bonbons,” Shafer said, “we try and give them a little bit of information on not just how we make it, but the importance of where it comes from.”

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4. The name barCHOCOLATE is a vision in itself.

The owners hope to grow their brand to where there are brick and mortar shops in multiple cities so aficionados can enjoy luxury chocolate with a nice cocktail, or a glass of wine or beer. They dream of manufacturing their own chocolate from bean to bar and importing the highest quality cacao beans to produce their own chocolate locally.

So, before you fall victim to the grocery store impulse buy, sniff out some barCHOCOLATE items at Dean & Deluca.

Photos by Russell Burton.


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Russell Burton @russellLburton
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