Local Willy Wonka Dreams Of A Chocolate Factory

Dec 5, 2012

Last year, Florida passed a law that allows people to make food in their homes and sell it without a license.  One guy who’s taking advantage of the law is Tallahassee chocolate maker Bob Williamson. And he’s hoping to use a fundraising website to take his business to the next level.

Bob Williamson owns Srsly Chocolate. His chocolate bars are a big seller at Tallahassee’s Lake Ella farmer’s market.

"My dream is to have Tallahassee’s first chocolate factory," he said.

For now, he’s working toward a food science degree. And he’s making a batch of spicy chocolate bars in his home kitchen. On the counter, there’s a big plastic tub.

"I import organic and fair-trade Dominican cacao beans, which are these guys right here, and then I roast them. And roasting it’s a lot like roasting coffee, basically, and you kind of bring out a lot of the chocolate notes," he said.

He puts the beans into an electric-powered granite mill, no bigger than a typical countertop stand mixer.  After 12-16 hours, he’ll add sugar, melt down the mixture and add things like locally made peppermint sticks for flavor. There’s also the Oaxacan Espresso, which has flavors of chipotle pepper, ground almond and locally roasted coffee. There's a plain 70 percent dark chocolate. And, Williamson has one named after his wife, Robin. It's a little sweeter and has cinnamon in it.

Robin is packaging the finished bars on the coffee table in the living room. She wraps each one in aluminum foil and then picks up a home-printed label.

“Right now, each paper takes four folds, so it’s a little time consuming, but there’s a lot of love that goes into it," she said.

Business is going well for Srsly Chocolate, Bob said.

“Everybody loves it. I can’t make enough of it," he said. "And so, that’s why I’m trying to make more of it.”

He thinks it will cost about $5,000 to start making chocolate on a bigger scale. And that’s where the fundraising website Kickstarter.com comes in.

Dozens of other local people are using the site to raise money for their projects, too. One is commissioning a piece of classical music to honor a professor retiring from FSU. Another is trying to fund a photojournalism book. People pledge donations through the site, but the recipients only get the money if they reach their goal.

And if Bob gets his $5,000, he says, his first step will be renovating a kitchen behind the popular All Saints neighborhood night spot, Fermentation Lounge. He’s known the owners there for a while.

"They’re really trying to not only get their little family of businesses going, but also help other people create local businesses," he said. "They’ve been really supportive in, like, the whole, Gaines Street revitalization.”

Fermentation is hosting the Srsly Chocolate launch party Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m.

Click here to check out the Srsly Chocolate Kickstarter campaign.