Imagine stepping into an urban chic, brick interior, cafe style room. Groups of friends are clustered around tables sipping hot chocolate and engaged in relaxed conversation with the “shhhhzzzt” of the milk steamer in the background. Others are standing at the display case, selecting truffles, chocolate bars and drinks to eat in or take home. A friendly and knowledgeable wait staff serves patrons a ‘chocolate flight’, complete with plain crackers and water to cleanse the palate between tastes. At Nuance Chocolates, Toby ‘88 and Alix Gadd have created an unparalleled chocolate experience in old town Fort Collins, CO. Chocolate at this level feeds body and soul; it engages your mind as well as all five senses – it is an experience not to be missed.
Entrepreneurial by nature and profession, Toby has started, managed and sold two successful businesses in the last 20 years. After selling Montage Graphics/ParticleLogic Marketing in 2011, Toby, faced with free time and a comfortable financial situation, spent his time competing in ultra-endurance mountain bike races, hanging out with his family, traveling, and making chocolate in his kitchen with his scientist wife. When they traveled to Costa Rica and began learning about cacao-producing regions of the world, several observations rose to the fore. First, some areas were producing environmentally and ethically sustainable cacao beans, without pesticides, herbicides or child labor. Second, chocolate from different countries tasted fantastically different. And third, they both really loved experimenting with and eating chocolate. Their kitchen hobby expanded to include the basement. Before too long, Toby’s business mindset took over — Nuance was born.
Toby says of Nuance, “The opportunity to share what we’d learned about chocolate seemed like something too good to pass up. Having a plan in life is good and all, but I’ve learned to always leave room for serendipity.” And with that, Toby embarked on his next adventure. With a small factory a few doors down where beans are roasted, ground, mixed with sugar and sometimes milk, and then fashioned into chocolate bars or truffles for sale in their shop or online, Nuance is one of only a small number of ‘bean to bar’ chocolate makers in the country. Nuance now boasts the largest selection of single origin chocolate bars in the world and has continued to use only sustainably and ethically sourced ingredients. With a flavor profile of more than 600 naturally occurring compounds, making it more complex than red wine, single-origin chocolate offers a seemingly unlimited playground for the chocolate lover and entrepreneur alike. Today, Nuance is thriving. The shop is pleasantly full throughout the day with both tourists and ‘regulars’. One patron commented that the unique chocolate experience, coupled with the warm, friendly neighborhood atmosphere brings him in regularly to relax and enjoy a sweet treat after work. As online sales continue to grow too, Nuance has had to increase their number of employees several times over the last few years. Toby and Alix are considering expanding into the wholesale market at some point, but are clear that they won’t take that step until they’re ready and are confident they won’t sacrifice quality and mission for the sake of growth.
When asked what advice he might give today’s White Mountain students interested in opening a business of their own, Toby said, “Be true to the values and passion that embodies life at White Mountain, absorb the wisdom that life sometimes brutally hurls at you, and then do something that brings you and your community genuine joy and satisfaction.”
Interested in learning more about Nuance and maybe ordering some single origin chocolate to taste? Check them out at www.nuancechocolate.com