The current team continues innovating with resounding popular success, having added pistachio nougat bars, salty caramels, peanut butter cups, and, most recently, peanut butter and jelly bars. These confections are empowered with deliciousness.
Over nine decades and four generations of owners, Li-Lac has strictly adhered to traditional chocolate making, which the Wall Street Journal has called “stubbornly old-fashioned.” The recipes are sacred and never change,” according to Cirone.
Li-Lac also offers an eclectic line of molded chocolates and has well over a thousand molds in its archives. With each holiday comes a new gifting opportunity, and a seasonal array of skulls, turkeys, Santas, snow people, dreidels filled with chocolate coins, LGBT pride items, Valentine’s hearts, Easter bunnies, and countless others. For special people or special occasions, you name the item: animals, dinosaurs, jewelry, motorcycles, school buses, buildings, baby gear, and wedding- cake toppers, which nod to marriage equality with straight and gay versions.
With Khoder focused on ensuring the distinct quality of Li-Lac’s hand- made items, Cirone and Taylor exploit their corporate experience to build the business. The new flagship store in Greenwich Village departs radically from Li-Lac’s quiet atmosphere. It’s a concept store that focuses on the chocolate “experience.”
Cirone says Li-Lac’s Artisan Chocolate Shop is “a sophisticated combination of the company’s old-world heritage with the urbane and classic sensibility of New York City.”
The new store is only one of several bold and strategic moves. In 2014, Li-Lac relocated its factory to Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. This dynamic community of 16 vast buildings, houses manufacturers alongside smaller creative artisans and innovative enterprises. The complex’s ground levels are being rebuilt to become pedestrian-friendly with shops, showrooms, event spaces, and courtyards loosely organized around themes such as food and food production, children and family, and home goods, while providing ample loading docks and services for upper- floor manufacturing tenants.
Pouring through floor-to-ceiling windows, sunlight floods the Li-Lac factory in Building Four along Innovation Alley. This walkway will eventually let shoppers stroll through all 16 buildings, stopping to sample artisan foods and enjoy watching production of goods.
Li-Lac’s new factory expands capacity and guarantees continued growth, currently producing more than 80,000 lbs. of hand-made chocolate per year with a single shift of 15 workers, many from the Sunset Park neighborhood. Cirone estimates that this is only about 25 percent of the factory’s capacity.
The growth can be attributed to many changes, starting in the first year with a marketing campaign that included advertising, social media, promotions, and support of community organizations and groups like HRC, GLAAD, Harvey Milk High School, and Imperial Court of New York.
The second year, Li-Lac introduced a new website, online sales, and redesigned pack- aging to enhance gift giving. The third year, came the new factory and an even heavier investment in marketing. And the fourth, a new flagship store.
Cirone and Taylor agree that the change from corporate life has been challenging but satisfying, requiring involvement with everything. “We carry the financial risk. We worry about the people who work for us. We are involved with our customers and the neighborhoods where our stores are located.” We use every bit of knowledge and experience we learned in our careers, but we also rely on our intuitive sense of what’s best for Li-Lac. And best of all, we focus on the chocolate!”