By Kat Wojtylak
We love horses, and many of us love chocolates. You probably didn’t think you could combine the two, but yes….it certainly is true. Dark Horse Chocolates was launched in 1992 by Phyllis LeBlanc. During graduate school she envisioned a line of gifts for equestrians that she could give out to the people at the barn. Her business plan was so intriguing that Harbor Sweets (where she was working at the time), was able to launch the line and pay for all development costs within four weeks. Dark Horse Chocolates has now since expanded, offering great gifts for equestrians year round. Little did Phyllis know that her part time job as a candy dipper would lead her down the path of becoming CEO of Harbor Sweets which is now celebrating forty successful years.
NOTE: If you missed Phyllis’ first interview, visit this link to learn about her background with horses and how Harbor Sweets came about.
KW: Hi Phyllis and thanks so much for joining us again. Where exactly did the name Dark Horse Chocolates come from?
PB: At the time I had a big (17.3h) black Hanoverian named Able. He was the inspiration for the name, and we liked the concept of “the dark horse” coming out of nowhere and being a winner!
KW: Gotta love the underdog! Tell us about the line of chocolates and how each individual “horse” relates to a different flavor. How did you decide on these combinations?
PB: We took the most popular flavors of chocolates that we had and combined them with the disciplines that we thought would appeal to the most people. We have a Grand Prix Jumper which is a butter caramel in dark chocolate. Then we have the Dressage Classic which is an almond butter crunch in dark chocolate. The Peppermint Ponies are dark chocolate and peppermint crunch and Sea Biscuits are a running thoroughbred who is peanut butter on a mini biscuit covered in milk chocolate. Then we have our hunt series which includes Full Cry (almond butter crunch and milk chocolate), Fox Trot (butter caramel in milk chocolate) and Tallyho (solid milk chocolate).
KW: You always make me hungry for chocolate! What is your favorite?
PB: Whichever one I’m eating at the moment!
KW: That sounds like an answer I’d give! But tell us about the photo shoots for your catalog, are they of your horse?
PB: It would be fun to do the photo shoots on location at a farm or my stable but usually we shoot the photos of the chocolates in a studio. Keep in mind we are photographing the chocolates in the middle of the summer, when it is hot in New England! The photos of Chiron and me are either from a show or at the stable.
KW: Any special gift ideas for other horse enthusiasts?
PB: Our Dark Horse Chocolates Christmas Calendar makes a wonderful gift. It has a Dark Horse Chocolate behind each of the twenty five doors leading up to Christmas, with a pony waiting for you on Christmas Day. We also have our Red Sparkle Take Out Box which is filled with our Dressage Classic and Fox Trot chocolates. No gift wrapping required! And then for those special recipients on your list, we have a a Equestrian Fabric Box showcasing four yearlings. It’s filled with an assortment of milk and dark chocolates. What makes it so unique is that the box is a keepsake and can be kept for years to come, even after the chocolates are long gone.
KW: So the million dollar question is, where do you sell Dark Horse Chocolates?
PB: Dark Horse Chocolates can be purchased at your local tack shop, or through our catalog or website at Harbor Sweets.
KW: And if that’s not enough, where can people learn more about Dark Horse Chocolates?
Come visit our chocolate factory for a tour at Harbor Sweets, 85 Leavitt Street, Salem, MA 01970. You may request a catalog or join our email list on our website also.
As always it was a pleasure speaking with Phyllis and becoming increasingly hungry for chocolate! A great gift item for those on your list, it’s a way to support small businesses who also happen to have equestrians onboard . Enjoy your shopping and have a safe and happy holiday season!
To full plates and eating your tarte out.
About the writer: Author Kat Wojtylak is a horse enthusiast turned food blogger. She maintains a day job in the horse world handling marketing and brand support to various companies, while enjoying her evenings and weekends writing recipes and blogging all about her culinary experiences. Visit her blog at EatYourTarteOut.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.