South Charlotte

Couple plunges into world of chocolate-making

The glass case is full of delicately handmade light and dark chocolates of different shapes and flavors, neatly placed on doily-lined plates. The aroma of chocolate is intoxicating and entices you to imagine what just a taste would be like.

Life is sweet at the Davidson Chocolate Co.

Davidson Chocolate Co., purveyor of fine truffles, turtles, toffee, peanut butter cups other delectable chocolates, operates a flagship store in Davidson and a second in Dilworth. A family-owned and run business, Davidson Chocolate is the love of John and Sue Elliott, who in 2002 chose to do something different with their lives.

The Elliotts, both 59 and Mooresville residents, did not have chocolate on their minds when they decided to ditch their 60-hour-a-week jobs - John in food service and Sue in accounting. They wanted to put their years of expertise to work for themselves.

Living in Nashville, Tenn., at the time, the two were thinking more in terms of a bed and breakfast when their realtor told them about a candy-making store in Franklin that had been shuttered.

Though the Elliotts knew nothing about making chocolates, they took the plunge.

Their son, John Jr., at Davidson College at the time, believed his parents had lost their minds. "I thought I was going to have to leave school and get a job to support them," he said.

But with his parents' experience, it was just a matter of learning about the specialty and finding the best ingredients to make the confections. The Franklin store thrived.

In 2008, the charm of Davidson and longing to be closer to John Jr., who had graduated was and working in college admissions, spurred the Elliotts to move their business. They set up shop in the newly developed Davidson Commons, and John Jr. joined the business as vice president of sales and development.

"We use the best chocolate we can find, with no preservatives, paraffin or fillers," said John Jr. "We are always trying different chocolates in an effort to find the very best. High quality and good value - we're a traditional shop."

"Chocolate is very sensitive to humidity and it does not mix with water," John Jr. said. He said that once the flavored centers are dipped in the warm chocolate, they are left to dry at a specific temperature. "A warm blast sends it out of temper."

Finished chocolate that meets high standards is put in display cases chilled to 68 degrees.

Truffles are the firm's main candy; the company has made more than 25,000 of them this year, one at a time, with centers filled with black cherry, caramel, espresso, Irish cream, key lime, peanut butter, strawberry shortcake and seasonal flavors like pumpkin. Each truffle takes four to five days to make.

Making candy by hand is as much art as confection. Passers-by can watch the process from the sidewalk through glass windows. No conveyor belts or wrapping machines are used here.

With the holidays coming up, the Elliotts are preparing for the busy season. On a typical day, they will make about 200 pieces of candy. At the holidays, that number goes up to about 1,500-2,000 pieces.

All the Elliotts will be working until the wee hours of the morning every day to get their sweets ready for chocolate lovers throughout the Charlotte area.