Holl's Chocolates are some of the finest West Virginia delicacies. Holl's, a fine Swiss chocolatier right in Parkersburg, sells fresh, hand-crafted delicious truffles, cordials, caramels, etc. The family-owned business also has a shop in Charleston. When I first saw the shop, I couldn't believe it was a local place, simply because it is so polished and slick - it's not typical of the homegrown feel many local places exhibit. A little history on the business from their website:
The history of Holl's begins with founder Fritz Holl's training as a Conditor in Switzerland. As a young man, Fritz was sent to Zurich to be an apprentice in his uncle's Conditorei. (A Conditorei is a combination pastry shop, chocolate shop and café.) By the end of his three year apprenticeship, Fritz could make all the sweet delights found in a Swiss Conditorei, from chocolates and pastries to cakes and ice cream.
In 1958 Fritz immigrated to the United States. He made his way to Marietta, Ohio in response to an ad for a Swiss-trained chocolatier placed by Ohio dairy company Broughton's. The dairy's owner, Carl Broughton, wanted to offer fine European chocolates and pastries in his chain of ice cream shops. Although the plan to offer Swiss chocolates and pastries at the ice cream shops was not successful, Fritz would work for Broughton's for the next 25 years in various capacities. All the while he continued to make chocolates for friends and neighbors every Christmas and Easter.
In 1986 Fritz retired from Broughton's, but he wasn't ready to slow down yet. Friends encouraged him to return to his original training, and in April of 1986, Holl's Chocolates was born in the founder's kitchen.
A local wine shop was Fritz's first customer. Only eight months after the business started, the wine shop sold over 400 pounds of Holl's chocolates. As a result of this demand, the Holl family kitchen became a chocolate factory, much to the dismay of Fritz's wife Elisabeth. The Holls decided to make a go of the business and invest in a "real" location.
They moved to a small storefront about 10 miles away in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The entire space, which housed both the production and the selling areas, was about 600 square feet. The store was located on a steep hill just off of a fairly busy street and had only enough parking for four cars. Despite these obstacles, people went out of their way to visit the little chocolate shop just to try Fritz's chocolates.
It was in the shop that Elisabeth's skills were put to use. As a young woman, she had worked at one of the finest florist shops in Zurich. The shop's elite clientele expected an exceptional level of personal service. Clerks were expected to greet their customers by name and to know their favorite flowers and their spouse's favorite flowers.
When a customer entered the chocolate shop, Elisabeth would greet them by name and have a sample of their favorite chocolate ready. This special attention, and the superior taste of Fritz's chocolates, made a trip to Holl's Chocolates an experience people were eager to tell their friends about.
As word of mouth brought more business, Fritz's retirement hobby became a full-time job that required more room and more staff. In 1990, Holl's Chocolates moved to its current location in Vienna, West Virginia.
As the store grew busier, Fritz's son Dominique joined the family business and learned the craft of chocolate making just the way his father had 50 years earlier. Under the younger generation's guidance, Holl's began to adapt their processes to blend the best of the old ways with the best new methods in order to keep up with growing demand.
Today, Dominique and his wife Michelle continue to adhere to the quality standards set by Fritz and the service standards set by Elisabeth. The elder Holls are no longer active in the business, but can occasionally be found chatting with customers in the retail store.
I ended up being able to try the chocolate-covered strawberries (to die for!), some of the milk chocolate almond bark (amazing!) and some individual chocolates (so, so good). Of course, some of my favorites were the ones with caramel. If you've never been, it's certainly an awesome experience. Each chocolate is lovingly made, and the elegance of the shop is incredible. If you're in the Parkersburg area, this is a must-stop.