Scarsdale couple opens up chocolate shop on Central Park Ave.

4 Sep

Scarsdale couple opens up chocolate shop on Central Park Ave.Dave and Shelley Larsen feel that chocolate is its own reward.

So just walking into the Scarsdale couple’s new store on Central Park Avenue brings smiles to their faces, once they catch a whiff of their handmade chocolates and duck behind the counter for one of Fifth Avenue Chocolatiere’s signature truffles.

“We give out a lot of samples. Shelley is a bulldog,” Dave Larsen said, presenting a tray of dark square treats to the pedestrians who stick their heads into the shop. “Once you have had the truffle … well, most people are like, ‘Wow! That’s like the best thing I’ve ever had!’ ”

The Larsens opened their store unofficially on July 11. Initially, they planned to spend a few weeks getting their inventory in order, set up the party room and the “I Love Lucy”-like conveyor belt, finish the paperwork for Kosher certification and get their feet squarely in place for an official opening on Sept. 1 and a “Grand Opening” on Sept. 7.

But five minutes after Shelley Larsen walked into the store on July 11, a customer walked in and asked to buy the tray of chocolates Larsen was holding. She made two sales that day, and she and her husband of 30 years agreed to throw open the doors and go with the flow.

Since then, they’ve signed up a dozen or so corporate accounts, sold ice cream by the gallon and moved chocolates by the bushel. As of last week they had hosted four children’s parties, with more scheduled, and put a business plan in place that includes visiting all the office buildings in the immediate area to deliver complimentary chocolate baskets. They hired their son’s friend, Jon Kray, as a manager and general salesman.

The grand opening of the shop, just north of the Greenburgh Nature Center, remains set for 4:30 p.m. Sept. 7.

“So far, it’s all been by word of mouth. Business has been unbelievably good,” Dave Larsen said.

Shelley Larsen grew up in Long Beach, Long Island. She worked for two decades as a paralegal in New York City, giving up the commute to raise her son and daughter, who now are 23 and 22, respectively. She then spent nearly a decade taking care of her ailing father-in-law, and after he died four years ago, she did temporary work.

Dave Larsen grew up in Long Island with his father while also spending time in France and England with his mother and her family. He joined his father’s business at Viking, Inc., in New York City, a company that specialized in embroidered insignia for the military and paramilitary organizations in this country and overseas, a job that lasted 20 years. When his customers eliminated the middle man and went to his suppliers, he purchased Ed Stein Woolens in 1995 and supplied his former customers with uniform materials and other fabrics, a job that lasted until about 2010.

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In June 2001 he and a friend also began running the Suzanne Splan Boutique. That business was dissolved in 2008.

It was while the Larsens were still involved in what Dave Larsen describes as “the military business” that they met Joe Whaley, whose father, John, created what has now become Fifth Avenue Chocolatiere’s signature truffle about 35 years ago in the family kitchen. By the time the Larsens and the Whaleys became fast friends, the Whaleys had two stores selling chocolates, one of which also specialized in children’s parties. They had left their original store on Fifth Avenue and another on 43rd Street for a factory and storefront in Long Island City.

With the end of Ed Stein, the Whaleys asked the Larsens if they would like to open a Fifth Avenue Chocolatiere in Westchester as a test store for possible franchise expansion. Since the Larsens lived in Scarsdale, they picked a retail complex on Central Park Avenue, near children’s businesses anda dance studio.

Despite a struggling economy that has seen at least two Westchester chocolate shops go out of business in the past few years, the Larsens said they felt their make-your-own chocolates parties would attract customers and make their store a destination.

“Chocolate is my passion,” said Shelley Larsen. “They say if you want to open up a business in this day and age, you need a business you are passionate about. I’m passionate about chocolate.”

Article posted by Spencer Samaroo, Managing Director, Moo-Lolly-Bar
The best online chocolate, lolly and confectionery store on the web!

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Source and Photo: Lohud

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