Those yearning for a taste of North Fork Chocolate Company’s tempting offerings will have a new option besides ordering online or finding some at the farmers’ market — the chocolatier has found a new home in Aquebogue, and is set to open in February on Main Road.
The business will be located at740 Main Road, the site of the former Esprit de France art gallery and gift shop, which closed last fall.
North Fork Chocolate Company, which is known for handcrafting “small batch” artisanal chocolates and gourmet desserts from local, East End products, has gathered a loyal following, selling their tempting treats online, at the Riverhead Farmers’ Market, and at a pop-up last year at Tanger.
Co-owners Ann Corley and Steve Amaral were thrilled to secure the site, which they’d long admired as a permanent location for their business.
The pair, who had met years ago and reconnected on social media, brought their respective talents to the table — Corley has a background in marketing and Amaral is a chef — to create the North Fork Chocolate Company.
Once they’ve opened their doors, with a soft opening slated for right before Valentine’s Day, the pair are considering opening a building on the back of the parcel to create ice cream in flavors including Belgian chocolate and Tahitian vanilla — as well as a juice bar.
Amaral, a James Beard nominated chef, has become well known for creating delectable desserts, such as three-inch tarts and pies for East End hotels and restaurants including Bistro 72, East Wind, 75 Main, 230 Elm and the Lobster Grille Inn in Southampton and the Backbar Grille in Hampton Bays — as well as for eateries in Florida.
Eventually, Corley said, Amaral became “intrigued by chocolate,” and the dream was born.
Corley and Amaral discovered Stony Brook University’s Calverton Business Incubator, and today, still create their desserts at the location. The pair “grew out” of their chocolate room at the Incubator, though, and now work out of the historic Northville Grange Hall on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.
“We redid the kitchen, and craft our chocolates there,” Corley said,
In addition, she said, they’ve created the Artisan Project, a place where local artisans and artists, as well as food vendors, are able to rent inexpensive tables and sell their wares, at the Grange. So far, about six to eight vendors can display their work at one time; in the summer, the plan is to have an outdoor area as well. “We’ve cleaned up all the brush that was there, and we found a beautiful old stone wall,” she said.
Working in partnership with the First Parish Church of Riverhead, which owns the Grange, Corley said they are working to restore the historic building, with some proceeds from the Artisan Project used for that purpose. Her goal in the future is to collect photos and oral histories about what the Grange has meant to the community and display them on a wall inside. So far, community members have been supportive, with residents coming in to share their memories.
“Residents love that we are adding life to the building,” she said. “Mr. Hallock came in and said he saw the doors open. He said he’d borrowed a table 15 years ago and now that the doors were open, he was returning it. He said his grandparents had gone to school there. I love that story.”
Community means everything to both Corley and Amaral — and they plan to create a market at their new North Fork Chocolate location in Aquebogue, to help nurture other small businesses just as they were given a chance, at the Incubator. “We are opening this up to other start-up companies, to sell their products. Anyone who has a craft, a food product, a pet product, jewelry, greeting cards — we’re about small business and community,” she said. “We’re all about helping others. We know how hard it is; it’s very hard to get loans as a start up. This is all about helping each other grow.”
North Fork Chocolate has scores of fans already raving about their specialties, including s’more pops and small apple pies, created with local Woodside Orchard apples and carmalized Long Island Spirits bourbon.
“Our whole theme is using local products,” Corley said. Amaral, she said, creates his own blend of pure Belgian chocolate. For fillings, “we go to all the farms and local purveyors,” including organic peanuts from MarGene Farms in Mattituck and North Fork Sea Salt for an organic snack made for a New Jersey client. Other local ingredients include fruits, herbs, honey, vegetables and dairy.
“Many of our flavors are made with local farm products,” she added, including goat’s milk from Goodale Farms, which is used for a goat milk toffee. The pair has partnered with Hal Goodale of Goodale Farms in Riverhead to make their ice cream from milk from his farm, as well as with a processor located on his parcel.
North Fork Chocolate Company has also worked with local wineries to present their offerings. For example, the Pellegrini Vineyard in Cutchogue offers a special dark chocolate mix to go with their red flight; Laurel Lakes pairs a Sparkling Moscato with a milk chocolate; and Jamesport Vineyards offers candy bars, including a blackberry merlot and a riesling caramel. For Palmer Vineyards in Riverhead, the pair created Cabernet Franc bonbons, which were given to clients in a gift box with a bottle of Cabernet Franc.
For both Amaral and Corley, becoming deeply entwined with the local community is the goal. To that end, they are even working with students at the Greenport school district to grow mint; the students are creating labels for the mint chocolate in art class, they said.
“We like to work with people that way,” Corley said.
The new location, they agree, was worth the wait. As the pair surveyed the space on Tuesday, local business owners stopped in to wish them well and admire the natural wood and light.
“It’s welcoming and inviting,” Corley said. “It’s earthy.”
Of their product, Corley and Amaral said, on their website. “We have one body to take care of and we care about what goes into to it, and we care the same for you. That’s why we select unsalted fresh churned creamery butter, whole milk, and vegetarian fed free range chickens for our eggs. Farm, to mixer, to oven, to you.” Amaral, the site said, “handcrafts for you our products inspired with passion, creativity, and love. “
To order products or find out more about the North Fork Chocolate Company, click here.