It’s been a good year for North Fork Chocolate Company so far, and the fall looks even brighter. This month, the Calverton-based artisanal sweets manufacturer will launch its first retail operation out of the main food court at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.
“We’re very excited and happy to do something local for the community,” said owner Ann Corley. “It’s a new niche. There’s nothing like it here at the food court.”
Shunning the trappings of typical fast-food fare, the kitchen at North Fork Chocolate Company’s retail operation will emphasize a fresh concept with a menu that includes soups made from locally grown vegetables, artisanal breads and, of course, its handmade chocolates. Steve Amaral, who launched North Fork Chocolate Company with Ms. Corley late last year, will serve as the café’s executive chef. Mr. Amaral was previously co-owner of the now-closed Wading River restaurant Amarelle.
“I think what we’re offering is going to be so much different from what’s offered [at the Tanger Outlets food court] right now,” Mr. Amaral said. “Today, people are more concerned about where their food comes from. I’m anticipating that we’ll get a really good response to what we’re doing.”
North Fork Chocolate Company got its start when Ms. Corley and Mr. Amaral, who are former colleagues, got together to begin making sweets using pure Belgian chocolate and freshly churned butter and eggs from Goodale Farms in Aquebogue. Some of their creations are infused with other local ingredients like apple cider from Woodside Orchards, also in Aquebogue, and LiV vodka, made in Baiting Hollow. Production began early this year at the Calverton Business Incubator, a 16,000-square-foot commercial space where entrepreneurs can work without the burden of purchasing a property or entering into a long-term lease.
Monique Gablenz, the incubator’s director, said Ms. Corley and Mr. Amaral’s business model was strong from the outset.
“They definitely had a real passion for what they were doing,” she said. “They believed in their product and they were willing to work very, very hard. For these entrepreneurs that are trying to get their product in the marketplace, it really does take a lot of commitment on their part. And they demonstrated that right away.”
In the 10 months since their debut, North Fork Chocolate Company products — namely, its chocolate bars and multi-flavored chocolate bark — have popped up everywhere, from local wineries like Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue and Raphael in Peconic, to Vines & Hops, a café that launched last month in downtown Riverhead.
Perhaps a sign of the times, the startup company’s journey to Tanger Outlets began with a Facebook post. One day, Ms. Corley recalled, she was scouting out retail locations and posted a Face book status asking her friends if they knew of any available places. Someone suggested she check out Tanger Outlets and the rest, as they say, is history. At Tanger, the business will join Empire State Cellars — which serves up wine and beer crafted in New York State — as another place to get local fare at the mall.
The space North Fork Chocolate will fill was most recently occupied by Villa Pizza, which switched locations within the Tanger complex. The chocolate company will continue to produce its goods at the Calverton incubator.
“As a start-up business, we give Annie so much credit,” said Janine Nebons, general manager at Tanger Outlets. “We’re really excited to have somebody with local flavor and we think that’s what our shoppers want. Being able to taste a little bit of the East End is really something that we’re anxious to introduce to our shoppers and we think it’s going to be a huge success.”