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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, June 11, 2012, 6:25 am

Napa confectioner plans larger factory

Plant would serve growing wholesale business

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    Anette's Chocolates brandy-filled trufflesNAPA — The oldest operating chocolate producer in Napa Valley plans to greatly increase its capacity to make wholesale confections by opening a second local factory.

    Anette’s Chocolates (707-252-4228, www.anettes.com) is pursuing building permits to start outfitting, hopefully in August, a 15,000-square-foot industrial space at 700 Gateway Dr. in Napa Valley Gateway Business Park in south Napa as a second confections kitchen, according to Anette Yazidi, company namesake and co-owner with brother Brent Madsen and his wife, Mary Stornetta.

    The new facility would be double the size of the factory and store downtown at 1321 Main St. Exactly what will be made where is still in the mix, but the idea at this point is to move larger-scale production to the new plant and keep specialty creations downtown, Ms. Yazidi said.

    Anette's Chocolates Beer Brittle

    Popular wholesale items are Brandy Truffles, Beer Brittle and dessert sauces made with varietal wine. (credit: Anette's Chocolates)

    “Most brittles and sauces would be made at the second location, and specialty chocolates, ice cream and items for the evening and daytime would be made here,” she said. “Brittles and sauces are made in larger quantities and would be more manageable there. It’s a little hard for big trucks to maneuver in and out of our limited space.”

    Plans for this expansion have been gelling for a half-dozen years because of the growing wholesale market and shrinking elbow room inside the Main Street plant. More than two dozen full- and part-time employees work at the two existing locations. Company owners had been waiting six years for the right time to commit to a second factory, but the the economics weren’t right until recently, according to Ms. Yazidi.

    Anette's Chocolates wine-filled chocolate sauceThe wholesale business, run by Mrs. Stornetta, offers an assortment of bottled and jarred sauces made from wine, raspberry or amaretto liqueur, brandy or port combined with chocolate, caramel or butterscotch. Wineries are a leading wholesale market for the company. 

    Products also popular for wholesale include exotic brittle, retailing for $10. The newest is Chili Lime Tequila Tortilla Brittle, made with sizable pieces of organic tortillas embedded in the brittle. An attention-getter was Beer Brittle, which includes Spanish peanuts and the flavor of yeast and hops after the alcohol burns off in the kettle. A spicy adaptation is Fiery Beer Brittle With Spanish Peanuts.

    Online sales make up roughly 10 percent of sales, and that continues to grow, according to Ms. Yazidi.

    But the biggest part of the business remains retail sales at the Main Street factory and store and a small shop at Oxbow Public Market about five blocks away, she said. And the downtown revitalization, with more hotels, restaurants and wine tasting rooms opening in recent years, has been bringing more of the 4 million-plus annual visitors to the valley to central Napa shops.

    “Our retail sales in the last two years have definitely gone up with more foot traffic downtown,” Ms. Yazidi said.

    Anette’s Chocolates started in December 1991, when Ms. Yazidi and Mr. Madsen restarted Patrick’s candy shop, which had been operating in downtown for a half-century. To maintain consistency and learn confections, the siblings retained certain employees and trained under the master confectioner and previous owner.

    At that time, well before the current Napa River flood-control project started preventing periodic swamping of storefronts, downtown foot traffic was much lower. The siblings operated a deli in the storefront to attract customers for five years, switching over confection production exclusively afterward.

    In the past two decades, Anette’s Chocolates has won a number of awards for product quality and garnered attention in national media such as Fine Living and Food Network.

    Michael Moffett of Coldwell Banker Commercial Brokers of the Valley represented Anette’s Chocolates Napa Valley in lease negotiations for 700 Gateway, and he also represented M&Y Properties, LLC, which purchased the property in April for $1.83 million.

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