Last week I introduced you to Brenda Stabenow, a confirmed chocoholic who turned her obsession into a business. Brenda owns the Chocolate Haus in Amana, Iowa.
Brenda fell in love with the Chocolate Haus on a visit to the Amana Colonies in 1999. She’d always dreamed of owning a small business, and one sniff of the chocolate-perfumed air confirmed that this one fit her perfectly. Seven months later the Chocolate Haus came up for sale, and she bought it.
Thirteen years later, the Chocolate Haus, under Brenda’s management, is clearly a success. She has beaten the odds of small business ownership through hard work, the support of her family, and an abiding love of her product.
Recently Brenda took the time to answer a few of my questions:
Can you tell us about your location in the Amana Colonies?
The Amanas are a wonderful place to spend the day, whether you’re interested in shopping, dining, or Iowa history. Chocolate businesses need to be located in a high count pedestrian area, and the Amanas fit that description perfectly. We are the number 1 tourist spot in Iowa, and we get visitors from all over the world.
One thing I really like is that we have four large festivals per year that attract a huge amount of people. During other times we close at 5:00, because back in the day the shops closed so shopkeepers could have dinner with their families. We love that tradition.
Your website says your recipes are a hundred years old. Where did they come from?
TOP Secret info! They are like what Mom and grandma made on the stove, but revamped so we can make 30 lbs at a time.
Do you employ any family members at the Chocolate Haus? Will your kids work there someday? I’ve recruited every friend, neighbor, and family member at some point over the past 13 years. My son is 16, and started officially working for us last summer. He seems to like it and likes to throw it out there that he’s the manager 🙂 My husband was more involved in the beginning, but we found it was best for our relationship if we kept our business and home lives separate. We still recruit him for maintenance on our 150-year-old building and all our equipment.
Do you have a personal favorite on your list of chocolates? My favorites can change weekly, but I’ll always be a fan of our fudge. I only eat the Chocolate flavors. If it isn’t chocolate I don’t bother.
I also love our dark chocolate truffles. They’re every true chocoholic’s dream. Dark Chocolate Ganache centers dipped in dark chocolate! The best treat is a latte and a truffle. We sell the lattes, too.
What do you sell at Christmas time? We used to make divinity, peanut brittle and sponge candy at Christmas only. But people loved those items so much we now make them year round.
We try new things at Christmas each year. This year we have pumpkin fudge, pumpkin truffles and eggnog fudge and truffles. During the Prelude to Christmas festival (Dec. 6-8), we’ll feature our new sea salt dark chocolate fudge.
Thank you, Brenda.
Thanks for featuring us!
There you have it, folks: A glimpse into the life of a chocolatier. Now, who’s hungry for some fudge?