Eve Neuhaus says that one of the best things about running a chocolate business is that people leave the store with smiles on their faces.
Neuhaus and her husband, Tom Neuhaus, now want to allow a new owner to provide that happiness to customers.
Their San Luis Obispo store, Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates, is for sale. The Neuhauses, who are planning to retire, hope to complete the deal by March 31, when their lease expires at 1445 Monterey St.
“We’ve had a great time running the store, but we’re looking forward to retirement and we plan to move to France,” Eve Neuhaus said. “We’ve had some offers, but nothing has worked out yet.”
The couple has operated the business in San Luis Obispo since 2004. It was formerly in the upstairs of the nearby Splash Café on Monterey Street, owned and operated by Joanne Currie, Tom’s sister.
The Neuhauses moved the store, formerly called Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates, down the street to its current location in 2009 when commercial vacancy became available.
They said the business brings in about $500,000 a year in gross revenues. About a third come from online sales, a third from in-store purchases and a third from bulk sales.
The store’s lease is $2,000 per month in a space of about 1,100 square feet. The business also rents a small portion of a warehouse in downtown San Luis Obispo to store some of its products. The new owner would be able to continue to use the warehouse.
“I think chocolate has a tremendous future,” Tom Neuhaus said. “And like the wine industry. I think there is a shift happening where chocolate businesses are moving to smaller operations and away from the big businesses that dominate the industry. I think it can be a really successful business for a local owner.”
Tom Neuhaus taught in Cal Poly’s food science & nutrition department from 2000 to 2015, and he taught cooking and baking at Cornell University before that. He also has traveled to Africa more than a dozen times to help West African cocoa farmers through humanitarian efforts.
The store’s products — including truffles, candies, chocolate cats, teas and coffees — nearly all come from 95 percent organic ingredients, Tom Neuhaus estimates.
About 98 percent of the store’s products are purchased in manufactured form and 2 percent are manufactured in the back of the store from “bean to bar.” The coffee beans they purchase originate from 19 countries, including South American, Central American, Caribbean, and Asian nations.
“We have some longtime employees who know how to make all of our products, and they’ve run the store when we were away for two weeks around Christimas,” Eve Neuhaus said. “A new owner might have experience, but they wouldn’t necessarily need it. The store is ready for someone to step in and turn the key and get going.”
Mama Ganache maintained fair trade and organic certifications until 2016, and although it no longer has the certification, its products are either organic, fair trade or directly sourced, according to the owners.
Ganache is a French word for chocolate and cream, and the “Mama” in the store’s name is to inspire a sense of nurturing, Tom Neuhaus previously told The Tribune.
The store’s peak season for sales is between Christmas and Easter, including Valentine’s Day, which helps buoy business for the rest of the year, Eve Neuhaus said. The couple has sold as much as a few thousand dollars worth of chocolate in a single day during peak seasons.
The Neuhauses — both 67 years old — say they’ve enjoyed the people who come into the store, many of whom are regulars, and the process of making and selling chocolate, which they call an art.
They have partnered with numerous wineries to offer chocolate at events and tasted and hosted Art after Dark events, combining Malbec tastings and chocolate samplings.
“Chocolate is truly the next wine,” Tom Neuhaus said. “There is a history, anthropology and physiology of taste that’s absolutely fascinating about chocolate, and I think it could take off in the same way that wine has.”
They’re moving to France partly to be close to friends who live there and also to be closer to one of their five children, who lives in Rome. Eve Neuhaus’ parents fled France during World War II, and she’s working on a nonfiction book about their experience.
“And the cuisine is France is amazing,” Tom Neuhaus said.