DeBrand Fine Chocolates Inc.
Cathy Brand-Beere grew up in the sweets business. As a child, her parents operated a cake decorating and wedding supply store; by the age of 8, she developed a passion for chocolate, working at the family shop.
“I learned a lot about the confectioner arts growing up,” Cathy explains. “I had summer jobs decorating cakes and it had been my dream to have a chocolate store since I was very young.” Cathy’s favorite part of working with her parents was working with chocolate. In 1987, she began creating her own products and opened DeBrand Fine Chocolates Inc. (DFC).
Cathy started with a single store, working with her husband, Tim Beere, to expand the business to three retail locations in Fort Wayne, Ind. In April 2013, the company licensed a store in Kuwait, the first international outlet for DFC. The business employs 100 people and the team specializes in fine gourmet artisan chocolates made from scratch. These treats have gained popularity over the years and Cathy has found a niche selling her sweets to retailers across the country.
In addition to the company’s retail operations, DFC also has catalog and wholesale business. “We supply gift gourmet stores everywhere,” Cathy explains. “We sell to Trump Properties, Lord and Taylor and Henri Bendel.”
A Sweet Tooth for Business
The team purchases chocolate from a number of different suppliers and sources. “We start with the tempering process,” Cathy notes. “All the centers are made in-house from scratch. We design our molds and create the recipes. We design the packaging and get it made by vendors; we perform catalog design and our own marketing. My husband does our photography.”
DFC carries different lines of sweets, such as the company’s classic collections, truffle collections, connoisseur collection and chocolate bars, too. Cathy and her team are always trying out new recipes and continue to produce new treats with unique ingredients and flavors. The chocolatiers on staff strive to cater to different tastes with each collection, adopting ingredients and methods on a case by case basis.
One of the business’ newer lines, growing in popularity, is DFC’s Hot Chocolate on a Spoon. “This line has really taken off,” Cathy elaborates. “It is essentially a chocolate bar on a spoon and when you pour hot milk, water or coffee over it, you have hot chocolate or mocha. Another great line is our chocolate art boxes, made entirely of chocolate. I come up with an original design for all of them and work with two of our chocolate artists to create the products.”
Spreading the Love
While many private businesses struggled throughout the recession, Cathy says the company’s largest challenges have been when the economy is booming. “It was very hard to get good help,” she explains. “Everyone had jobs. We want outstanding people. Our staff has to take a seven-page test to work here. We care about having the right people for the job.”
Cathy’s priority is quality, which includes products, employees, ingredients and materials suppliers. According to Cathy, the team needs suppliers that can deliver quality products on time and follow through on promises.
“Chocolate is a luxury item that people don’t want to do without,” Cathy explains. “It’s an affordable luxury item compared to cars and diamonds. You can make a family or business very happy with $50 worth of chocolates. We are so fortunate that our business has stayed strong.”
Gourmet chocolates are emerging in a new food-focused consumer culture. Cathy and her team are happy to contribute and excited for the growth possibilities. “Opening our Kuwait store has been really interesting,” she elaborates. “A business man from Kuwait approached us about putting a shop in his country. His wife had tried the chocolates and loved them he wanted to bring a shop to Kuwait in honor of the birth of their second son. It was a complete surprise and unexpected opportunity. We traveled to attend the grand opening.”
As far as further expansion, Cathy says she does not have any big plans. “We can’t say exactly where we are headed as far as expansion,” she explains. “We have some things in the works and we are always looking for opportunities. Our facility is 10 years old this year. We have done some upgrades and recently remodeled one of our stores.”
In a steady market, the DFC team is happy to create tasty pieces with passion every day. “We love the enjoyment that people get out of chocolates,” Cathy says. “We have happy customers and happy employees, which are our biggest indicators of success.” As Cathy and the crew continue to invent new recipes for confections, DeBrand Fine Chocolates Inc. is looking ahead to a sweet future of continued growth.