By Megan Downey
To some, chocolate is a treat or a tool employed for bribing children, apologizing to or romancing a love interest. For others, it may even be an obsession, but for the owners of Shelburne’s Studio Cacao, Kevin and Laura Toohey, chocolate is a religion.
“Chocolate is a complex food substance with chemistry that is closer to glass than other foods,” says Kevin Toohey, who has worked with chocolate for 35 years. “Chocolate is similar to glass in structure in that it refracts light with mirror-like, crystalline clouds that coalesce into your dessert.”
Religions have historically been born out of revolutions, and there is no doubt that the Toohey family aims to revolutionize the way Vermonters think about chocolate. Both Kevin and his wife Laura served as apprentices to Swiss pastry chefs in the Midwest in the late 1970s before starting their family. They eventually moved to East Hardwick, Vt. in the early 1990s where Kevin worked for a Christmas tree farmer. Not long after the couple arrived in Vermont, they established and built a successful chocolate company that was sold in the late 1990s. Soon after the sale of the family business, Kevin joined a local toy company as warehouse operations manager.
The stars aligned when Kevin’s employer learned he had extra space at Shelburne Green Business Park, just enough for the Tooheys to outfit it with Italian equipment that would allow the couple to explore and expand their market. The U.S. Department of Agriculture stepped in to support the business with marketing and other assistance. Today, Kevin and Laura spearhead chocolate production while their son Rowan manages Studio Cacao’s kiosk in Town Center Mall in Burlington.
Studio Cacao is not your average chocolatier. This Shelburne business is differentiated by others in the industry by delivering a truly fresh product with sustainable suppliers. While other chocolate companies pump up the sugar content to give their products a long shelf life, the Tooheys use locally sourced creams and ingredients that bring unique flavor and character to their chocolates.
With plans to open a retail store in October and momentum generated through their exposure on the shelves at City Market in Burlington, the Tooheys are poised to spread their own unique gospel of chocolate throughout Shelburne. They see tremendous opportunity in their location at Shelburne Green Business Park to play a role in the food revolution in Vermont near one of the most highly trafficked intersections in the state.
Kevin distinguishes chocolate as a food source, not a confection, and is emphatic about bringing the world of chocolate to Vermont sustainably. Studio Cacao welcomes drop-ins at 6221 Shelburne Road, Suite 200. To learn more visit www.studiocacaovt.com or call (802) 735-7770.