Fernie Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory melts Elk Valley hearts

Martin and Marilyn Brock bring something different to the already thriving restaurant industry with their handcrafted treats.

“I’m a chocoholic,” Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory co-owner Martin Brock joked as he led me around the Second Avenue store, showing me their wide variety of edible delights.

After working for many employers, Martin and his wife Marilyn Brock decided to open the franchise store in the heart of Fernie’s downtown core, and with a town full of sweet tooth locals and visitors, business has been booming.

“We decided a long time ago when we moved here [that] we wanted to own our own business,” Martin said. “We had worked for other people for many, many years and we’ve seen good bosses and bad bosses and we’ve seen good business owners and bad business owners. We just wanted to do something really good.”

After contemplating several business ideas, Martin and his wife decided to invest their money and time in the chocolate industry, bringing something different to the already thriving restaurant industry.

“We wanted to do something really unique,” noted Martin. “We found in our research that a franchise was a good way to hit the ground running.”

Although a lot of the scrumptious chocolate creations are made in store, including the hand spade fudge, the caramel popcorn and the many varieties of brittle, Martin said the fact that all the packaging was given to them by the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory franchise made things simpler.

As well as the labeling, the Fernie storefront also imports their chocolate from a California based company called Guittard Chocolate Company.

“They’ve been doing chocolate for a long time,” Martin noted, adding that Guittard chocolate dates as far back as 1868.

He admits, “I wouldn’t be able to survive making my own chocolate. It’s what we turn the chocolate in to that makes us unique.”

 

— K. Dingman

With 700 to 1,000 lbs of chocolate on site, the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory’s assortment seems endless.

One of their beloved creations is the gluten free chocolate covered cheesecake, a must-try even for those adamant on sticking to their New Year’s weightloss resolution.

The product was recently re-introduced at the shop after disappearing from the shelves for nearly a year.

“For almost a year, three times a week someone would come in looking for the cheesecake,” said Martin.

The original cheesecake was purchased from Fernie’s Extra Foods, but after the President’s Choice company discontinued their product, the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory was at a loss.

That was until Park Place Lodge stepped up and started to make the ideal cheesecake Martin’s store needed to keep its customers satisfied.

“We all tried the cheesecake, we thought it was amazing,” Martin noted, adding that once they had the recipe in, store manager Jess Norman posted it on Facebook and almost immediately received over 30 comments and around 50 likes.

Another favourite, made with locally purchased ingredients, is the shops wide variety of chocolate and caramel dipped apples.

With the Second Avenue store dipping between 100 and 135 apples per week, Martin said, “they’re a huge favourite.”

It’s those crowd favourites adored by locals and visitors alike that keep the store successful.

“The diversified things in the store make it so you can be successful all year long because Fernie has its peaks and valleys and if you can weather the valleys, you can make it happen,” he noted, adding, “Having local people support us is crucial. The tourist portion is just the gravy on top.”

In fact, Martin said he doesn’t think the chocolate shop could have survived without local support, and with aggressive business hours, the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory caters to locals working within the community.

The store is open 364 days a year, seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

“There’s a lot that goes on, there’s a lot of hard work here,” Martin added, commending his three employees for their dedication to the business.

Martin himself has established such a trusting relationship with his employees that he only puts himself in the schedule from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Wednesdays.

“We wanted a business that we didn’t have to be in all the time,” he said. “We’ve gotten it so that with the right people in place, I don’t have to be here. I put myself in the schedule because I want to.”

After working for the ‘big boss’ for what seemed like a lifetime, Martin said he wanted to step down from that mentality and cater to his employees needs.

“I don’t treat them like I’m the big boss,” noted Martin. “I just try to work with my staff.”

And it’s that small town mentality and the overall welcoming atmosphere of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory that keeps locals and out-of-towners coming back for more.

“People come in here with no expectation and they’re just blown away by the variety and quality and what we have to offer,” Martin noted. “It’s so much fun.”