We had the good fortune of connecting with David Menkes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
When we first started the company, we were both working full-time jobs and made chocolate at night and on weekends. It became overwhelming. What we realized was that making 30-40 bars a day was not sustainable, and we needed to scale up.
We were able to do this by leasing larger machines that allowed us to make hundreds of bars per batch rather than a few dozen, and were able to start making thousands of bars in a month, rather than hundreds.
I went into making chocolate full-time in 2016, and my wife joined me full-time in 2017. Our working hours have been largely seasonal, but with her as our production manager, we’ve really cut down on the number of late nights we’ve had to work. Most nights, we get to go home when we close at 6pm. Sure, there are times we get last-minute orders and have to rush a project out, but generally we try to work 8-9 hours a day, 6 days a week. Having a day off, and having our evenings free, has made all the work worthwhile!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
We manufacture chocolate from cacao beans sourced from around the world. Like wine or coffee, each region has its own unique terroir and flavor characteristics. It’s exciting to share samples with different origins with our customers so they can see the difference themselves! We started part-time and eventually made it our full-time career. LetterPress Chocolate has made a name for itself by our dedication to quality. We never rush product out the door. When we stone-grind our chocolate, it can take several days or up to a week. It’s done when it’s done. We never let production schedules dictate quality.
We were fortunate in 2017 to buy a certified kitchen which we converted into our factory and retail space, literally 4 blocks from our home. We get to walk to work, which is important as we wouldn’t want to spend all that time in traffic.
We get to walk to work, which is important as we wouldn’t want to spend all that time in traffic. Diversifying our business was essential – online sales, in-store sales, tours, working with a distributor, all these things allowed for us to easily pivot between one and another depending on the time of year and other factors. LetterPress Chocolate is dedicated to paying farmers a fair price for their cacao beans. That’s why we regularly pay 2-4x the market rate, as we insist on the best-of-the-best, and want our famers to know their hard work has value. Most commercial chocolate is made from commodity-grade cacao which often uses child or slave labor. We don’t support that.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Walking along the beach is always nice, but we love hiking in the mountains as well!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Steve DeVries, the godfather of the American Craft Chocolate industry.