It’s a factory. It’s a cafe with coffee. It’s a chocolate mecca.
On July 11, the Trop family opened its first chocolate retail store and coffee cafe in Gig Harbor, and it’s the kind of place anyone with an affinity for chocolate truffles should visit.
Find 30 kinds of hand-dipped chocolate truffles, caramels, nuts, graham crackers and brownies. Did I mention the handmade chocolate boxes?
And soon, the Trops will stock their famous chocolate syrups. Like their hand-dipped chocolates, those are made with Belgian chocolate.
Trop chocolate might be the most prolific chocolate company you’ve never heard of. Dozens of local coffee houses use Trop’s chocolate syrups in their coffee drinks. Trop’s chocolate-covered graham crackers and brownies are found at cafes, restaurants and small stores throughout the region, from Seattle’s Zeitgeist Coffee to Tacoma Musical Playhouse and Olympia’s Mud Bay Coffee.
Co-owners Larry and Heather Trop, who run the company with children Emily and Spencer, said customers urged them to take their business from wholesale to retail. It’s not their first store. In California, they operated a bakery-turned chocolate store from 1986-1998. High rent and overhead turned the business unsustainable and they closed the doors and swore they’d never have a store again. The family left California for Gig Harbor 12 years ago — following several of Heather’s family members — and started the business slowly and only kept wholesale customers.
“What can I say? Chocolate is in our blood,” said Larry about the second-time-around retail chocolate shop.
The factory and cafe is in an out-of-the-way business park just off Jahn Avenue Northwest. As Larry described, “It’s easy to get to, but it’s not where you’d expect it.”
Indeed, I found it tucked into a business park, near a storage business and a doggy day care. It’s a 4,000-square-foot storefront, but much of that space is devoted to chocolate production.
As you cross the threshold, there’s no mistake, this is a chocolate factory. Marble tables were in use, with staffers hand dipping chocolates. Much of the company’s chocolate production is viewable, and the family offers organized tours, as well as private birthday parties and events. Soon, they’ll offer chocolate-making classes.
The staff is mostly family. Spencer, who became an Eagle Scout at 13, mans the front counter. Emily, a budding actress, makes espresso. Their parents call them “our Oompa Loompas.”
Larry and Heather are the chief chocolate makers, and their tastes run pure and simple.
The selection typically hovers around almost three dozen types of chocolates, treats and candies. There are almonds and macadamias dipped in milk or dark chocolate; chocolate-coated caramels and hand-dipped truffles in dark, milk and white chocolates. Said Larry, “Every flavor is really simple. We don’t do complicated things, it’s simple and old fashioned here.”
Chocolates are priced $1.50 each, with boxes of six and 12.
Everything is made fresh, said Larry, which means the shelf life of the chocolates is a few weeks, rather than the monthslong lifespan of some commercial chocolates. Trop’s chocolates store well in the refrigerator for up to a month, so long as they’re kept in a plastic bag (don’t ever let chocolate come in contact with moisture, Larry advised).
“No corn syrup, no preservatives, no artificial flavors, it’s all natural and made with Belgian chocolates,” said Larry.
Morning pastries also are made at the cafe and are served with coffee, which is made with beans roasted at Tacoma’s Valhalla Coffee Co. There’s seating for about 20 in the spacious cafe portion of the building, which is outfitted with an industrial-steampunk theme. Rivets and clock gears decorate counters. Layers of chocolate browns and vibrant coppers run from the concrete floors to the tall ceilings.
The Trops have plans to soon debut new treats. One such concoction is called the “UFO,” a handmade ice cream sandwich, made to order, with Trop’s syrups, ice cream and a brioche bun. Described Larry, “It’s like an ice cream sandwich, but made on a brioche. It’s really fresh and really wonderful.” The UFO was named by Spencer Trop. It stands for “Unique Frozen Obsession.”
Also try: Tease Chocolates. Originally from Vashon Island, the chocolate company opened its doors in June in Tacoma’s Stadium neighborhood. They’re the first — and only — South Sound chocolate company making its own chocolate from cocoa beans. Find the chocolate company at 610 N. First St., Tacoma; teasechocolates.com.
Where: 3303 Jahn Ave. NW, Gig Harbor.
Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.
Information: 253-238-7771, tropschocolates.com.