Swiss Tradition Inspires Baltimore Chocolate Makers
Number of employees
Childhood kitchen memory?
Every year my grandma would come over for Christmas and we would bake Christmas cookies. I would get to stay home on the Friday before and make them. We would kick out Christmas cookies by the hundreds.
Favorite celebrity chef?
Weirdest kitchen tool you’ve ever used?
A hairdryer. It sounds weird, but it’s absolutely necessary in the chocolate business.
I like crabs, our homemade pizza, and sweet potatoes. Chocolate would have to be in there somewhere!
As you read this
, Benjamin and Jennifer Hauser might still be recovering from the Easter rush of sweet-toothed shoppers.
It’s one of the busiest holidays for Glarus Chocolatier
, after Christmas and Valentine’s Day, says Jennifer, who recalls making roughly 18,000 chocolate pieces this past winter season.
Recently earning the badge of the sixth best chocolatier in the nation by online lifestyle magazine Complex, Ben and Jennifer are hoping for sweet success in the years to come.
After a six-month courtship, the Hausers were engaged -- as life partners and business partners. They knew they wanted to merge their ideas to start a food business and opened their first store in 2004 and their Harbor East store in 2010.
Jennifer, 34, originally had her heart set on a bakery.
“I grew up baking a lot in my family, I have a love for baking,” Jennifer says.
“After really researching the Baltimore area, I felt like there was no real true down-home bakery left.”
Aware of the baker’s demanding hours, Ben, 40, convinced Jennifer to open a chocolate business instead. After all, his father was an established chocolatier in the Connecticut/Rhode Island area who hailed from Glarus, Switzerland and brought traditional Swiss chocolate-making techniques with him to the states.
Ben and Jennifer pooled their funds from their previous jobs as a restaurant owner and marketer respectively and opened Glarus in 2004. While other businesses struggle the first few years, the Hausers thrived in their 4,000 square foot Timonium location nestled near Jeppi Nut Co. and Baltimore Coffee and Tea Co. Within days, they were on the cover of Towson Times and North County News and soon after, a hit with their first Christmas crowd.
Their success allowed them to open their Harbor East location. For roughly two years, the Hausers ran both locations in tandem. When their son Andrew Benjamin turned 9 months old and Jennifer had to balance baking and childcare, they decided to put all of their energy in their city shop.
Jennifer says the city location, despite the smaller 1,000 square foot manufacturing space and higher rental fees, made sense in many ways.
“People these days are more interested in high quality foods and better brands,” Jennifer says. “It was a big draw for us. Our chocolate is extremely high quality, and we wanted to attract this audience.”
Glarus products are handmade and au natural without preservatives or high fructose corn syrup. Based on the art of chocolate making in Switzerland 50 years ago, the truffles are made from a shell base that have the fresh crème filling piped in unlike their thicker French counterparts. Specialties include cherry, white, and dark chocolate barks, walnut gianduja, and dark truffles. Jennifer warns customers that the freshness comes with the price of a seven-to-10 day shelf life – unlike mass-produced chocolates.
The Hausers have a print machine for customized chocolate boxes and are able to order specialty molds. They have fulfilled orders from a wedding in Los Angeles, to a chocolate Ferrari for a Baltimore car show and 1,200 box chocolate order for company Christmas gifts. They have also marketed their sweets at local evens like the Best of Baltimore and have attended the Chocolate Affair for six years.
Ben spends six days a week manufacturing, while Jennifer comes in one to two days a week to bake while staying home the rest of the time to manage business and watch six-month-old daughter Lucy.
Jennifer says they take the advice of her father-in-law.
“You have to stick to your guns,” says Jennifer. “A lot of the time, companies will morph into what used to be done if things get rough, or change their quality -- cut back here, cut back there.”
The Hausers reach out to Timonium customers by keeping a basic product line at Fairgrounds Discount Beverages while accepting personal customer orders for drop-off each Friday. New customers are hooked through walk-in taste tests.
Customers have come in during tough economic times, even if they are buying less.
“People are definitely still buying our product, but cutting back,” Jennifer says. “One thing I joke about sometimes is that the state of things are so depressing that people are buying more chocolate to feel better.”
Ben Hauser, co-owner of Glarus Chocolatier.