West Virginia Department of Commerce Holl's Swiss chocolates

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Holl's Swiss chocolates

Living the Sweet Life
Holl's Swiss Chocolates

By Catherine Zacchi

The holidays bring sweet memories for Dominique Holl, third-generation chocolatier and president of Holl’s Chocolates Inc. His father Fritz Holl apprenticed in Switzerland in his uncle’s conditorei (combination pastry shop, chocolate shop and café). After immigrating to the United States in 1958, Holl changed careers and for many years made his Swiss confections only as gifts.

“When I was growing up, my father made chocolates at Easter and Christmas,” recalled his son. “My sister and I delivered trays of chocolates to the neighbors and usually brought back Christmas cookies in return.”

After retiring in 1986, the senior Holl turned the family kitchen into the first Holl’s Chocolates “factory.” By 1990, the rapidly-growing business moved to its current location in Vienna. Dominique graduated from West Virginia University and apprenticed under his father.

“For 2-1/2 years, I learned the recipes, techniques and craft just the way he had learned under his uncle,” he said.
During trips to Switzerland to visit relatives, the family toured successful commercial chocolate shops, equipment manufacturers and modern chocolate production facilities.

Holl’s purchased Swiss-made truffle-making equipment. In the past, the ganache — the creamy truffle filling – was piped from a pastry bag or hand-formed into a ball. The results were delicious but inconsistent in size and shape. The new equipment forms the truffle ball and puts the soft ganache in the center in one step.

Holl’s most visible change took place 10 years ago in its showroom. Typically, customers study chocolates displayed in counters and point to selections to be boxed for purchase. But during holiday rushes, the process slows to a crawl.

“February 13 sticks in my memory,” Dominique said. “We had customers lined from the counter to the door all day long.”
Holl’s hired a retail store designer to analyze its traffic flow. Now the chocolates are displayed in glass columns or on tables like jewelry cases. Customers amble through the shop at leisure, mark selections on order forms and hand them to the Holl’s associates. While waiting for their boxes, customers remain free to look around for other selections such as coffee or wine.

“While we have automated some processes, our chocolates still involve a lot of handwork,” said Dominique. “Our chocolates are authentically Swiss from the recipes to the techniques to ingredients we import from Switzerland. We could easily buy Belgian or even domestic chocolate for less, but you need not be a connoisseur to taste the difference.”

Catherine Zacchi lives in Mineral Wells and works for Commerce Communications. She enjoys biking on the North Bend Rail Trail in Cairo. Contact: catherine.m.zacchi@wv.gov