The Chocolate Therapist Is In!

by Kathy H. Ely

Pam and David Griffith, Co-Founders of Chocolate Therapy

Pam and David Griffith, Co-Founders of Chocolate Therapy

It’s 10 am, and I’m eating chocolate. Don’t judge me, though, it’s therapy. Chocolate therapy, to be exact, and in fact, I’m doing work and ingesting antioxidants (and we’ve never met one of those we didn’t like). It’s almost as much fun as the work of Pam and David Griffin, founders and owners of Chocolate Therapy, a custom chocolate business now in Framingham, Mass. (If you have your fall Konenkii box, I hope you’ve dug in to those marvelous treats by now.)   After years of working in corporate environments (she, 17 years with Starbucks, ending as regional manager for more than 94 stores; he in manufacturing), they leapt into their own retail business. Pam, a delightful empty-nester and indefatigable worker, told me how it came to be:  

PAM: We are from Chicago originally, and my husband got transferred here [Massachusetts]. But then his business got sold, and he was commuting to Ohio, our kids were older, and we just wanted to do something on our own. Everyone tells me we’re crazy, but our life was very crazy before, and this is a good kind of crazy.

KONENKII: What brought you to chocolate?  

PAM: We knew we wanted to be independent, and David began investigating franchises. Our entrepreneur coach showed us a chocolate one, but we realized the chocolate we made in our own kitchen was better, so we decided to do it ourselves. Our love of good food, and our love of exploring contributed to starting out on our own. We had had a coffee shop some years back, but then a Starbucks opened on the corner. I decided if I couldn’t beat ‘em, I’d join ‘em.

A team building exercise—looks like a great time!

A team building exercise—looks like a great time!

KONENKII: Five years in, how is it going?

PAM: We have had such success, and had to move from our original location to a bigger space, with our own kitchen and event space. Now we’re at that point when it could really take off, but it’s harder to meet expenses, so now we’re venturing into a wholesale business. When we got into this, it was always the idea to diversify, to expand the brand. So we have birthday parties, and Girl Scout events, have recently moved into corporate team-building with companies like Bose and Wellesley College; we’ve even done events in senior living facilities. We teach them about chocolate, they choose their own flavors for truffles, then we judge who is the “chocolatier for the day.” It’s a lot of fun.  

KONENKII: So how is it working with your husband, do you have a division of labor?

PAM: If I had a dollar for every woman who has said to me, “Oh, I could never work with my husband, I’d kill him!”, I’d be rich! It can be challenging, but we make it work because we love the business. We are both risk takers, and we have learned so much. We feel we are on a new journey, and have enjoyed the discovery of this industry, from the small cacao farmer to the amazing amount of chocolate consumed in the U.S. David pretty much handles the manufacturing end, the costs, equipment, and ordering, I do the front end and the event management. When we have the parties, he does the education and the history, I talk more about the flavors and the pairings. Our recent wine and chocolate events were my idea, and they are very popular with women, about 90 percent, especially bachelorette parties. Some, like the Wellesley group, end up cheering and clapping at the end, so fun.

KONENKII: So do men buy as well?  

PAM: We get all types in the store; we have a man who comes in each and every week to get his chocolate, sometimes nibbling on one before he goes. Maybe the “stress reliever”-- honey, lavender, and sage—or “The Cure”--cinammon, bay leaf, and cayenne.  Lots love the combination of savory and sweet, calm and soothing. I loved when the 100-year-old woman came in—it made my day, mind-boggling to see her enjoy our chocolates. We had a group of special needs kids, phenomenal.  

KONENKII: What about your kids? Do you actually have a life outside of the shop?

PAM: I do generally work seven days a week, but it’s because I love it. But I do get down to New York to see my daughter, Kelsey, who is now an understudy on Broadway [in Chicago].  She has loved performing since dance class at two. She got involved in plays in high school, got a degree in musical theater, traveled nationwide with DreamGirls, so I’ve seen her perform many, many times. Now she’s also doing TV work—has been in BlueBloods and other ABC shows. I figure she’ll end up in L.A. Our son, John, just graduated from Mass Arts {Massachusetts College of Arts and Design]; he’s making money at a restaurant here in Boston, but also does work with The Sinclair, a music venue in Cambridge, some music management for the shows, as well as other artwork and graphics.

KONENKII: So there’s a creative flair all through the family?

PAM: I always joke that they got the artistic bug from me; I did sing in choir and performed in college. But really, it’s from older generations: a grandmother played piano, great uncle was jazz musician with Nat King Cole and others; David’s relatives were also in music.

KONENKII: What is your advice to other Konenkii women venturing into their “second act”?

PAM: I love that term. I do feel like I’m on a new journey, from coffee to chocolate. Mostly I would tell them to do their homework. You can follow your dreams, your heart, but just don’t jump in, have a plan. And get financing—there is always something that comes up that you don’t expect, a license, a fee, labor costs. We have also relied on the experts to do what they do best; we’ve found a wonderful chocolatier who takes our ideas and makes them work, have a talented marketing person who has been so instrumental in getting our business out there. So many have helped along the way. But I also want people to remember how hard it is. I get stressed out, and say “What the hell am I doing?” But you just keep moving, otherwise you go down a spiral. You have to love it.

KONENKII: And when you have those moments, just have a bite of the “stress reliever.” I’m going to do that right now! Check out the Chocolate Therapy goodies.

 

Do you have an idea for a second act?  Are you on a second act journey right now?  We'd love to hear more!