Salt Lake’s ‘Little Chocolatiers’ take many steps toward a successful business

Story and slideshow by CARLY SZEMEREY

“I think there are some similarities with us and Steve Jobs,” Steve Hatch said in a phone interview. “We are both very picky about our businesses.”

Hatch, 41, is one of the owners and founders of Hatch Family Chocolates. Along with his wife Katie Masterson, 41, they are working hard to make their business successful.

After Masterson and Hatch were married, they knew they wanted to start a business at some point. However, these two didn’t know what kind of store they wanted. They weren’t sure if they wanted to open a coffee shop, a bakery or something else.

With a bit of background in chocolate-dipping, Hatch thought a chocolate factory might be a good option.

“My family dipped chocolates all their lives,” Hatch said. His grandmother dipped chocolates and taught his father, who then went on to continue this tradition for many years. He would do it as a hobby and give these chocolates to friends and neighbors. Then, after he retired he began selling his specialty treats at boutiques.

With this experience and tradition, Hatch and Masterson felt confident that this was the business they wanted to go into. So they got to work.

First, Hatch and Masterson searched for a suitable location. They toured several buildings before finding the right space to start their business. “It just fell into place,” Hatch said.

The next step was to prepare for the business aspect of the company since Masterson, who received her culinary degree at CHIC — Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago — had the baking side covered. Hatch enrolled in some business classes at Utah State University and the University of Utah to aid him in this preparation.

They opened their shop, Hatch Family Chocolates, on April 19, 2003. The shop at 390 E. 4th Ave. was small, because they didn’t know if their business was going to be successful.

To boost their business, Hatch and Masterson starred in their own TV series on TLC called the “Little Chocolatiers.”

The series followed Hatch and Masterson through their days at work and described the effort that is put into their products and creations.

After just 12 episodes the couple found themselves with a growing business.

“[The national coverage from TLC] absolutely helped,” Hatch said. “[It] brought in new faces from all over the country.”

With the boost in customers came an increase in sales, which led to some new complications. After four years their 4th Ave. location was beginning to become too cramped. The need for more space, combined with the fact that Hatch and Masterson didn’t own the building, led to their decision that it was time to move.

They began looking for another store, searching from Sugar House to Pioneer Park. The couple didn’t know what to do because they “loved the mom-and-pop shops in the big-city feeling” that the Avenues neighborhood offered them, Hatch said.

Fortunately for them, a grocery store located at 376 E. 8th Ave. was for sale. They felt that this was the perfect location, so they bought the property.

“It helped moving to a bigger shop but was also scary,” Hatch said. With the move came increasing costs, the process of starting all over again and a loss of customers. Moving caused some customers to think that Hatch Family Chocolates had gone out of business, since Hatch and Masterson relied only on word-of-mouth advertising.

“I was convinced that the store had just went out of business,” said Vickie Edmunds, a customer of Hatch Family Chocolates. “I was overjoyed when someone finally told me that they had just moved locations.”

Megan Murdock, a regular customer, said, “I prefer the new location. It’s a lot bigger, which is nice for loitering afterwards.”

Relocating allowed them to refocus their efforts on their business and continue dipping all of their products by hand every day. The freshness is now one of the main attractions of Hatch Family Chocolates and keeps customers coming back.

Not many shops hand dip or make their candy from scratch anymore, Hatch said, but that is exactly what Hatch and Masterson do and will continue to do.

“We want to keep the high quality of our [hand dipped] chocolate and products,” Hatch said. So changing to machinery is not in the cards at the moment.

Aside from their delicious and fresh products, the owners of Hatch Family Chocolates are also known for their great customer service.

“People walking into the doors are the most important thing,” Hatch said.

“My employees probably think that I am picky and strict because I can be in the middle of a personal conversation and if someone walks into the shop I will drop the conversation and turn all my attention to the customer,” he said.

This attention to service has worked well for Hatch and Masterson.

“The customer service there is great and I always feel well attended, especially when the owners are present,” said Murdock, who loves Hatch’s chocolate-dipped bananas with peanuts.

Hatch and Masterson are content with the current state of their business. The store is still evolving and things keep changing but, even so, they want to remain a local spot and do not want to lose the neighborhood feel.

They have recently incorporated an online store to their website and in the future they are considering bottling their caramel — one of the customers’ favorite treats at Hatch Family Chocolate — to be available for purchase.

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