Fran's Chocolates in Seattle Area- A Woman Chocolatier Owned Factory/Company
Fran's Chocolates In Seattle
Take a young girl’s passion for chocolate bars, a woman’s delight in fine food and a touch of perfectionism... What do you get? The creator and founder of Fran’s Chocolates. In 1982 Fran Bigelow created her signature chocolate almond bar called “The Gold Bar” and opened a confectionery shop in Seattle, Washington. At that time she wanted to showcase the pure flavors of her exquisitely created chocolate treats which could only be found in European chocolate salons. Now 25 years later she has set the standards for all other USA chocolatiers to follow!I am on my way to Fran’s since their chocolate has won so many awards and set such high standards I am not sure what to expect. I, like numerous others have eaten the luscious chocolates which just a few months ago received prestigious awards for 3 of their products. As I view their marketing materials I notice that they too are very high end... Perhaps their factory will be filled with highly sophisticated high end technology and equipment.I arrive at a rather unpretentious small chocolate brown covered square building. It sort of reminds me of their carmel bits... hummm... could it be, will I been entering a Wonka Wonderland? Oh my, could everything be made up of chocolate, just waiting for me to take a bite?Inside Sean Seedlok, the vice president of marketing greets us. He is giving Gary and I the tour today. Eagerness fills as we walk into the INNER SANCTUM - we sit at a table, he talking and me squirming, eyes canvassing the room looking for chocolate - Where is the chocolate? I don’t see any chocolate! Finally we don a hair net and walk into Fran’s Factory!
Looking around I see nothing high tech - no assembly lines - no robot arms - no 3 story high vats of chocolate. Fran’s factory is modest, small. Over in a corner there is a well worn large copper bowl and racks filled with little bits of candy pieces.Where are all the workers? Over there are two women dipping their hands in a vat of chocolate in another little room is a chef guy mixing something in a bowl and beside him are two more women wrapping and boxing chocolate. The people are very petite, have an out of country aire and are very engaging with nice smiles. They seem vaguely familiar... Oh my god, they remind me of Oompas, Perhaps this is Fran’s secret to success? In her travels to find the perfect chocolate perhaps she has stumbled into Oompa land! Could this be? Could she have cleverly enticed the Oompas to come work for her in her chocolate factory?Cleverly I ask Sean what they are doing? He says that they are hand dipping carmel into chocolate - the final step in making Fran’s truffles. Hand dipping you say? What about the robotic arm assembly line - isn’t that what they mean by hand dipping? My brain is going into a quark as he explains that in the busy season each of these women can hand dip up to 10,000 pieces of chocolate a day. No way, I squeak out. He further says that each chocolate has a signature design that these women put on each truffle with a flick of the wrist as they put the chocolate pieces on a tray. The expresso filled truffle has an E an O for orange zest infused with cream and waving S for single malted whiskey.Okay this has got to be proof that these workers are Ompas. Who do I know who could do this? And still be smiling!We exit the room and stand next to the women hand wrapping the chocolate in foil. There are mounds of brightly colored Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. Very cute and very tempting! Only professional restraint keeps me from snatching up one of the bunnies and biting off its head.We have been in the factory for over an hour - cocoa essences have been exploding over and saturating every external pour of my body. To taste chocolate right out of the dipping pot or freshly popped out of a mold would be heavenly!My focus is pulled from the bunnies as Sean asks if I have any additional questions - “ Hell no, my brain screams, just gimmie chocolate!” I hear myself saying no and thank you for the wonderful tour. Again we are in the room with the table - we take off our hair nets and he asks us to wait here for a moment. When he returns there is a bag in his hand. “Enjoy”, he says as he hands it to me. Inside our bag is Gold Bars, truffles and caramels - “Oh, my” is all I can squeak out!We leave to head over to their retail store to take some more pictures, chocolate smiles on our faces, now I understand why everyone working in the factory is so happy!Fran has 3 retail shops in the Seattle area and sell their chocolate on line and numerous other venues. I strongly encourage you to check them out. Their candy is great and the people are wonderfully friendly... Oompa, Oompa Oompa do, have a little candy and a smile will come too!