Life is about to get a bit sweeter for Calgarians as iconic chocolatier Master Chocolat has opened the doors to a new state-of-the-art flagship store in southwest Calgary.
Located at #130 – 560 69th Avenue SW, just south of Chinook Centre, the retail and production facility opened in mid-November as part of ongoing expansion plans for a company that’s been around for just under four years, yet is built on more than a century of family history.
“It’s really the next step for Master Chocolat,” says master chocolatier Bernard Callebaut, whose name has been synonymous with chocolate in the city for nearly four decades. “It is very exciting.”
The new Kingsland location replaces the previous one in Manchester Industrial Park, which Callebaut says was bursting at the seams. It also provides customers with added transparency into the chocolate-making process, including what goes into these delicious masterpieces.
A 30-metre-long window will provide line of sight to the significantly larger production space. A separate dedicated room will also allow Callebaut and his team to provide hands-on chocolate courses and host children’s parties, team-building events and seasonal festivities.
“It’s about bringing that experiential content to another level. They will be able to see what’s happening. They can sit down, have a hot chocolate and watch what’s happening,” says Callebaut, a fourth-generation chocolatier.
“Retail is an experience. It’s still very much a brick-and-mortar business. People still want to see, smell and taste the product. I don’t think that’s going away any time soon.”
The flagship store complements Master Chocolat’s existing footprints in both Marda Loop and the Calgary Farmers’ Market. It also extends some of those locations’ more popular features, including the opportunity for customers to make their own chocolate bar on the spot.
The new location is yet another chapter in Callebaut’s storied history. His great-grandfather started the family chocolate business in Belgium in 1911 where Callebaut later plied his trade before training under the guidance of famed European chocolatier Rene Goossens in Antwerp, Belgium.
Callebaut opened his first store in Calgary in 1983. Since then, he’s not only seen the city’s population boom from 600,000 to more than 1.2 million, but also customers’ chocolate preferences evolve – including wanting to know more about what’s going into their bodies.
“People are paying attention; they’re reading the labels,” says Callebaut, noting Master Chocolat’s current products are 95 per cent organic.
“The evolution has been dramatic. What I made in 1983 and what I make today are absolutely different. Dark chocolate, for example, had 55 per cent cocoa and 45 per cent sugar. Today, my basic dark chocolate is 70 per cent cocoa and 28 per cent sugar.
“I don’t use corn syrup or vegetable fat and sugar is not the first ingredient on the list. I’m very careful with the ingredients I use. I want to make it clear that when you buy a chocolate hazelnut spread, our customers know we make it with 70 per cent hazelnut.”
As for the other secret to Callebaut’s sustained success?
“You have to be truly passionate about what you’re doing,” says Callebaut, who calls chocolate good for the soul and one of the necessities of life. “When you’re truly passionate, you always want to become better. You always want to raise the bar.”
And it helps to have a loyal tribe of customers.
“I’m very grateful that people in Calgary have been extremely supportive over the years. It’s heart-warming,” says Callebaut. “It shows that if you are a true defender of quality, then people won’t forget about you.”