Rob Taylor purchased Stafford's Chocolates in Porterville more than 10 years ago, and has grown it ever since with his son Ben. Photo contributed

published on June 13, 2022 - 9:09 AM
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For many natives to the Porterville area, Stafford’s Chocolates has become a staple in the community, instantly recognizable by name, appearance and, of course, taste.

Founded by Larry Stafford in 1987, Stafford’s Chocolates was purchased by Rob Taylor in 2011, and since then, has experienced exponential growth, opening two other locations in California as well as expanding the menu to include not only long-time local favorites but also new additions as well.

After originally meeting Stafford after moving back to Porterville, Taylor was in the store in 2011 when Stafford’s sons mentioned the store was for sale. Taylor contacted his own son, Ben, who had attended culinary school, asking him if he was interested in working with him if he made an offer on the store.

Ben Taylor, Stafford’s chocolatier

 

“We asked if we could spend a couple of days working in the shop just to kind of get a feel for things to see if we liked the idea,” Taylor said. 

After a week of working with the previous owner’s sons, the Taylors decided they would purchase the store.

“When we took over, they had basically two employees,” Taylor said. “Today, if you just look at our store, we’ve got about 15.”

Stafford’s Chocolates had already made a name for itself in the Porterville area, but with the culinary training of Ben and the business acumen of Rob, the Taylors have since evolved the business not only to a Porterville favorite, but a favorite of chocolate lovers throughout the state and across the country.

Taking advantage of the local agricultural hub that is the Central Valley, many of Stafford’s ingredients are locally sourced, keeping the production Valley oriented, while their product reaches from coast to coast.

Stafford’s sources its nuts — almonds, pistachios, walnuts and pecans — locally when it can, with the exception of peanuts.

“We started making some different varieties of chocolates with all of those,” Taylor said.

Using products from Rosa Brothers in Tulare, and produce from a variety of farms throughout the Valley, the Taylors kept the traditional favorites, including Larry Stafford’s “Ooey Goey Bar,” and have also introduced their own creations, from bars and bites to truffles and even drinks.

“We make a really awesome honey, orange blossom truffle,” Taylor said. “That’s made with honey from the bees that are pollinating all of the orange groves.”

Stafford’s also offers custom chocolates, decorated with business logos, as well as custom orders for weddings and parties.

Stafford’s has also become locally known for its caramel apples, offering different varieties throughout the year. The shop goes through anywhere from 70 to 80 cases of apples a year, decorating them based on the season.

“That’s kind of the fun part about it too for the chocolatiers, so they’re not having to just make the same old stuff day in and day out,” Taylor said, adding that their most recent apples have been decorated to commemorate local high school graduations.

Ben’s culinary education also allowed Stafford’s to explore the creation and customization of truffles.

“Wineries will send us their bottles and we’ll make a truffle with their wine,” Taylor said. “We’ll sit around and open up bottles of wine and drink wine and eat chocolate to find something that pairs really good with that wine.”

Starting in 2016, Stafford’s paired up with high-end, Los Angeles-based coffee company Intelligentsia, selling coffee and drinks in addition to their sweets.

“Talking them into selling us coffee was huge,” Taylor said. “A lot of different places wouldn’t sell us coffee because we were in Porterville and we weren’t in a hip place.”

Stafford’s also owns two chocolate stores in the San Luis Obispo area, operating under the name Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates.

Stafford’s chocolates have been shipped not just locally and across the country, but around the world, with Taylor saying that they have shipped to military bases in Europe, as well as Japan and other countries as well.

With the intent to one day expand to more locations, Taylor says that they will do so with caution.

“The one resource that we need the most is skilled labor,” he said, adding that they don’t plan on opening a new location without first finding a dedicated manager capable of handling the projected growth the company has experienced locally and in San Luis Obispo.

Since taking over the store, Taylor says the volume of production has increased tenfold, and he hopes that the growth continues as the business hopes to continue growing into the future.


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