Clayton Dixon has always had a sweet tooth – with a particular penchant for the sometimes creamy, sometimes dark, always satisfying confections that come out of traditional chocolateries.
It was a love he balanced for many years with a career in finance, but, as he approached his 50th birthday, he decided it was now or never to live his dream and bring his sugary vision to the masses, starting in Aurora.
Mr. Dixon, a resident of Whitchurch-Stouffville recently opened Chocolate & Company, a chocolate and gelato shop on Yonge Street and Brookland, which operates on the simple philosophy of “quality, decadence, all made on site.”
“We wanted something better than what we could find,” says Dixon. “After doing cooking classes in my early 20s, I started playing around about 12 years ago, taking what I thought I could do a bit more seriously. I started practicing, built a little hobby kitchen in the basement and went from there.”
From the basement, he decided he wanted to build something for the ground-up.
He knew what he had in mind: a chocolate that was more than a chocolate; a chocolate that was a dessert unto itself.
At first, he envisioned an industrial kitchen to make his hand-made chocolate which would then, in turn, be sold to restaurants and retail shops.
But, as he approached his milestone birthday, he decided he wanted to bring his dream confections directly to customers.
“Welcome to my midlife crisis,” he joked, opening his door to The Auroran on Friday morning. “I wanted to sell to restaurants, but it just didn’t fit with what I wanted. I wanted a retail storefront because it would give me much more feedback from customers on what they really want. I take the approach almost like a two-bite brownie; two bites for a really luxurious dessert, something you can have with coffee or a glass of wine. It is not a pastry, but pure chocolate.”
The ingredients, he says, are the best of the best. Although he does not roast his cocoa beans himself, he sources his chocolate – the obvious starting point – from Belgium and France. Then come the flourishes: pure hazelnut paste for the nutty confections, real raspberries, mango and more if you like your chocolate on the fruiter side of things, and hand-blended milk and dark chocolates for the perfect flavour balance.
“I strive for something different, that extra level of decadence,” he says, noting that he and his daughter are often engaged in a battle over milk and dark chocolate, with his daughter a big fan of the former and dad veering more towards the dark side. “Now that I have opened to the retail market, I am bringing more milk chocolate into my recipes, so my daughter is happier!”
As we get closer and closer to the holiday season, particularly during this challenging time, businesses and advocates are doubling down on their efforts to underscore the importance of shopping local.
Chocolate & Company is no exception as they offer an array of flavours to suit every taste, with boxes of as few as two treats to as many as 27.
“There’s a very strong Support Local base now because of COVID, but I think Support Local has been going on for quite some time, just extra-focused right now,” says Dixon. “People have [asked me] about starting a business at a tough time, but it is the whole Magic 8-Ball thing. I’m not really reinventing the wheel here, but I just figure the first six months are going to be tough anyway, and I am focused…on the store. It was meant to be and I kept being pulled in this direction.
“I want to take the level of quality as high as I can take it. That is very important to me.”
For more information, visit www.chocolateandcompany.ca.
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran