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Honolulu Chocolate opens Waikiki location


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Life is sweet for the Honolulu Chocolate Co.'s owners, who, despite the down economy, are expanding their 23-year-old business to a second location in the newly renovated Sheraton Waikiki.

Michael Cummins and Joe DiPaolis started the company as a sweets and coffee cafe in Manoa Valley in 1987 and soon after expanded to its flagship location in Ward Centre. At the peak of their business, they also had a store in Restaurant Row and a Waikiki kiosk; however, for the past nine years they've operated only at the Ward location.

Still, they always dreamed of adding a Waikiki storefront, Cummins said.

“;We have had offers in other Waikiki places, but they didn't have the traffic or customer mix that we knew that we needed,”; Cummins said.

The poor economy, which has led to the closure of many longtime Hawaii businesses, actually created an opportunity — an affordable rent in a prime location — for the partners to realize their dream.

On Friday, Cummins and DiPaolis gave out more than 1,000 chocolate-dipped strawberries to customers and friends who came to the grand opening for the Waikiki store, which created six new jobs.

“;This is big for us,”; Cummins said. “;It's an opportunity that in different times may not have been. In a down market it's important to see the opportunities.”;

While Waikiki tourism has been dropping, the Sheraton Waikiki is the right location for a second Honolulu Chocolate Co. because it maintains a steady mix of local and visitor traffic, Cummins said.

“;Many local people are there to visit the restaurants or for group events, mixers and weddings, and it gets a good mix of visitors from Japan and the U.S. mainland,”; he said.

Since the Honolulu Chocolate Co. offers made-in-Hawaii products, it is popular with visitors and locals alike, said Stephany Sofos, Honolulu-based retail analyst and business consultant.

“;They have a very unique product,”; Sofos said. “;People, particularly Japanese tourists with the omiyage, and mainland tourists, they just love it because it's such pure branding of Hawaii.”;