“If people come in with a foul mood or it’s a blue day for them, they always leave with a smile,” says Deborah Little, owner of Schakolad Chocolate Factory, which is located along the Broadway Cultural Corridor.
“I’ve always loved to cook. When I was in the corporate world it was my stress reliever,” she says, “And I had wanted my own business for many years. So I thought why not look and see what options there are.” Deborah stumbled upon a chocolate vendor at an expo, and began researching the industry. She found her match in a small franchise owned by a father and son.
“It’s been around for over twenty years,” she explains, “and there’s only nineteen of us in the U.S. We’re the only one in San Antonio.” Unlike many franchises, Schakolad has no corporate offices and each store is individually owned and operated.
Schakolad Chocolate Factory owner Deborah Little stands for a portrait inside her chocolate factory. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“I do all the cooking here,” says Deborah, “everything that’s here is made here.” Deborah and her first employee, Tatiana, were trained by a master chocolatier before opening for business. “The cooking is what I expected to be my favorite part. But my favorite part is actually visiting with the people who come in.”
Deborah has a mix of clientele, from Downtowners to visitors from around the world. “We had some folks from France in here in the other day and it looked like their daughter was getting ready to go to UTSA,” says Deborah, “I love those things, because they always leave with a smile on their face.”
Chocolate covered raisins are handmade at The Schakolad Chocolate Factory. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
It’s nice to have a friendly face in the neighborhood. “I think anywhere, a small business is important.” And not just for the residents or visitors. “I have employees who I love,” says Deborah, “and this small business is helping them get back on their feet.”
“We’re local people, this is a local business,” she explains. Deborah is at the store six days a week (it’s closed Sundays), using her passion to create unique offerings that add a whole new dimension to the culinary scene in the center city.
“I like being able to say we’re Downtown.” She is seeing an urban core with tons of momentum behind it. “Broadway is a perfect example of that,” she says, “Now we’ve got people starting to venture over because we’ve got the Maverick Whiskey distillery going in here, we’ve got La Boulangerie, we’ve got the Traveler’s Hotel, and it’s just nice to be part of that.”
Deborah has partnered with other retailers on Broadway at times and hopes the community along the cultural corridor has the opportunity to collaborate more in the future. “The folks who are rebuilding that structure across the street- The Maverick Distillery- we communicate a lot.” She hints at a possible meeting of her chocolates with the newcomer on the street. “Whiskey pairs well with chocolate,” she adds smiling.
When she hosts groups and classes, Deborah often talks to people about the neighborhood. “Downtown has changed so much even in the last six months,” she tells them, “If you haven’t been Downtown recently, you need to take the time to drive around. Buildings are going up, new facades, new apartments, new restaurants; it’s just an exciting time to be Downtown.”