FALL RIVER – They’re bringing chocolate and ice cream to Griffin Street.
The Globe neighborhood building, once known as the Save A Lot discount grocery store, which closed last December, is now converted into a chocolate candy factory.
Francis Cox, whose great-aunt Mary Dorothy Cox went into business in New Bedford in 1928 with his Dorothy Cox’s Chocolates, has a lease with an option to purchase the building at 100 Griffin St.
Cox, who is the president of the company, and his wife, Shirley, and their sons Matthew and Brian set up the candy machines that mix the ingredients to create everything from milk and dark chocolate samplers to coated strawberries. chocolate, buttery crunch dipped in the chocolate of your choice and the peanut butter taffy.
“We make our own blend,” said Matthew Cox, who manages the operation.
Candy and ice cream for sale
His father Francis says most of the 27,000 square feet at his disposal will be used to make the chocolate candy products. But he says there will also be a retail counter up front for walk-in customers.
The hybrid candy factory and store will also include an ice cream bar which, starting next summer, will feature ice cream cones, sundaes and smoothies.
The 24 flavors of hard ice cream, he said, will be made on site.
Dorothy Cox’s Chocolates flagship retail store has been located in Fairhaven since the 1930s and is still in operation on Route 6.
However, all chocolate had been made for 10 years in Wareham.
Francis Cox, 58, said he closed the Wareham plant last summer when it became clear that it would be too expensive to add electrical power capable of running the machines he bought at the candy company NECCO, after the closure of its Revere plant.
He says he researched alternative sites in Fairhaven, New Bedford, Taunton and Fall River before settling in the Griffin Street building.
Cox says he and his family are spending $ 100,000 to connect to the National Grid system to increase the power available to run older NECCO machines.
New jobs planned at the Fall River site
He says the old supermarket building is twice the size of the old Wareham site and is simply “better value” in terms of future growth.
Cox said a handful of employees at the Wareham plant will work in Fall River. He says he plans to eventually have a full-time staff of 15 to 20 workers.
“That’s the goal,” he said, adding that in previous years up to 50 people worked at the Wareham manufacturing plant.
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But Cox says finding workers hasn’t been an easy task in recent years: “It was difficult to get help even before COVID,” he said.
Cox said the Fall River site should be up and running before the end of this month.
Moving to Fall River, Cox said, also has a different meaning.
Her great aunt and company namesake was born in Spindle City before she moved to New Bedford, where she first worked as a secretary for a mill owner.
“We’re bringing the family home,” he said, adding that Dorothy Cox’s Chocolates at one point had a total of five retail stores in Fall River, New Bedford and Fairhaven.
Sweets sold under store brands
Cox said 80% of his sales are made in the wholesale candy market. The rest consists of the retail and sale of chocolates at various stores and grocery stores, such as Lee’s Market in Westport.
Some of the candies, he said, are sold under the Dorothy Cox name and others as a store brand.
Cox says his company averages about $ 1.5 million in annual sales.
He said the older NECCO machines he and his family purchased in 2018 will provide the means by which Dorothy Cox’s Chocolates can grow and create a unique niche in the confectionery industry.
His son Matthew says the family business is the only confectionery company in New England to make its own line of chocolates by mixing various ingredients.
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He says older NECCO machines will be used to process what’s called chocolate liqueurs, which consist of crushed cocoa beans containing solid and semi-solid forms of pure cocoa.
Francis Cox says his company orders about 250,000 pounds a year of 10 and 11 pound blocks of chocolate from chocolate manufacturing companies.
There are currently just over a dozen American bar bean companies that process cocoa beans, most of which originate from Ivory Coast in Africa.
Cox said that being able to process the chocolate liqueurs, which contain absolutely no alcohol, will allow him to create from scratch some lines of chocolate that have so far been beyond his reach.
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“It will make us more competitive and unique,” he said.
Matthew Cox compared creating new chocolates essentially from scratch at the new Fall River location to craft whiskey and fine cigars.
Supply chain issues
Regarding the ongoing disruption in the international supply chain, Cox, 34, said it was difficult to get some pretzels, corn syrup and packaging materials.
Shirley Cox says the price of raw materials to make chocolate has “tripled to quadruple in the past five years, and with COVID we are fortunate to have chocolate.”
She says she and her husband have never viewed other independent chocolate retailers in a fiercely competitive way.
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“It’s not a cut throat like other companies,” she said. “We all know each other and we help each other a lot. “
Shirley, for example, said she had the utmost respect for Hilliards Chocolates in North Easton.
She also says her husband has been actively involved in recent years with industry associations, including the New England Retail Confectioners Association; Retail Trade Confectioners International; and Retail Confectioners Association of Philadelphia.
Shirley said her husband had run the biannual Philadelphia National Candy and Gift Convention show for nine years.
Her husband says Dorothy Cox’s Chocolates makes about an equal percentage of sweet and dark chocolates. Items on sale range in size from a two-ounce candy to a 35-pound Easter Bunny that sells for $ 250.
Francis and Shirley say they plan to paint the exterior of the building. They are also concerned about vehicles cutting and accelerating in the parking lot.
We are well aware of this, ”said Francis.
He said they were considering the possibility of installing speed bumps or creating separate entry and exit lanes.
“Something is going to happen,” he said later.
Charles Winokoor can be contacted at [email protected] Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today.