Pemberton resident Amanda Sandahl was searching for a new career when she decided to follow her passion — and sweet tooth.
“I thought about what I would like to do and I realized I should do something I’m passionate about,” she said. “And that’s chocolate. And I wanted to make people smile. Chocolate does that too, so it’s a great combination.”
Born in Belgium, but raised in Sweden, Sandahl grew up in a chocolate-entrenched culture. “In my upbringing, there was always fine chocolate around me. For any occasion, my grandma always made sure we had chocolate around,” she said.
The tradition stuck, with Sandahl crafting the treats in her own kitchen for family and friends — even after she, her husband and two sons moved to Pemberton. The response was always the same: you should go into business. Following her loved ones’ encouragement, Sandahl enrolled in an online program to earn credentials as a chocolatier.
Through the program she began to experiment in her kitchen with wildly varying flavours of ganache — from chili and honey to less exotic varieties. “It was trying out all the recipes and boiling it down to what it is today,” she said.
In the end, she chose eight flavours — including sea salt caramel, coffee ganache, mint and hazelnut, to name a few — to officially start her own company, dubbed The Chocolate General Store. The line, Chocohappy, will launch, appropriately, on Valentine’s Day at 3 Singing Birds in Whistler Marketplace, (where she will be handing out samples on Feb. 14) Ivy Esthetics in Pemberton and Olives Community Market in Function Junction, Whistler.
“I have a few more shops in mind for Whistler,” she said. “So far, it’s been super positive. People like the packaging. It’s so fun and different and they haven’t seen anything like it.”
That artful wrapping is courtesy of local artist Julie Hamilton. Sandahl happened upon her home art studio during a school social (their children both attend the Whistler Waldorf School) at Hamilton’s house. “It was exactly what I wanted,” Sandahl said when she saw the art.
Hamilton jumped on board, designing paper cone wrappers, just like the kind “used in the olden days,” Sandahl said. “You would go to the general store and get a paper cone. That’s why I chose the packaging.”
While Sandahl initially envisioned herself handcrafting the chocolates from her Pemberton kitchen, health regulations forced her to search for a facility in Vancouver to make the treats. “My focus right now is (selling) in the Sea to Sky corridor,” she said. “Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can have my production up here.”
Besides encouragement, the corridor has also provided inspiration for her burgeoning business. “I love living here,” she said. “It’s beautiful and people are friendly and welcoming. I started talking about my business and I’ve had such tremendous support. I find so many people in this community — Whistler and Pemberton — are entrepreneurs. There’s an overwhelming percentage that are those kind of people.”