Sweet Earth opens a second shop

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates has opened a second retail location in downtown San Luis Obispo at 950 Chorro St., where it is subleasing a portion of Trio boutique.

Sweet Earth co-owner Eve Neuhaus likened the space to a “mini department store” with Sweet Earth’s chocolates and chocolate memorabilia, art and cocoa-butter body products — as well as Trio’s clothing, jewelry, hair and food items.

Cal Poly professor of food science and nutrition Tom Neuhaus and his wife, Eve, started the company in 2004, and in 2005 moved production of their fair-trade, handmade chocolates to the kitchen above Splash Cafe, where they are made to this day.

Sweet Earth from the start was a thriving online and wholesale company with little local connection, Eve Neuhaus said. Online sales doubled every year from 2005 to 2008, when growth slowed. Neuhaus contributed the slowed rate of online sales to an increasingly competitive market for organic, fair trade chocolates, as well as the economy.

Neuhaus was hesitant to enter retail, but opened Sweet Earth’s first storefront location in July 2009 at 1445 Monterey St. because it needed more storage space. Unlike its second location, the first has a kitchen and offers hot and cold chocolate drinks and frozen treats in addition to packaged items.

“Two stores feed each other remarkably well,” Neuhaus said. Now retail makes up 10 percent of Sweet Earth’s revenue, and is growing at a faster rate than the online sales.

Each year, about 10 percent of total profits are given to cacao farmers in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire through Project Hope and Fairness.

Sweet Earth currently has six full-time and four part-time employees, which during the holidays can swell to 20 total.

These days, Eve Neuhaus is standing out on Chorro Street, handing out chocolates. “We really feel like people appreciate us. It’s fun to be here in San Luis Obispo,” she said.