“We tell stories with chocolate.”
That’s the message you’ll see embellished on the wall at Diane Krulac’s new boutique chocolate shop in Camp Hill. This is the second retail store for the businesswoman, entrepreneur and chocolatier.
Krulac’s first foray into the chocolate world began in 2003, when she began selling her gourmet brittle wholesale. The “Brittle Bark” sold well, but its popularity really went through the roof when now-manager Vonny Getz won a sweepstakes prize to appear on the “Rachael Ray Show.” Getz took some of Krulac’s brittle to the show as a gift, and Ray liked it so much that she named it “Snack of the Day.” This led to the opening of the first retail Brittle Bark store in Mechanicsburg in 2008.
By 2018, Krulac was ready to introduce yet another brand to the world. She called her line of fine, small-batch chocolates “Cocoa Creek Chocolates” and began selling them at the Mechanicsburg store before branching out into Camp Hill.
Krulac wasn’t always in the chocolate business. She spent time working as a dental hygienist before returning to school.
“I started my second career at age 30, got a master’s degree in computer science and worked in commercial product development,” she said.
Krulac’s Camp Hill store is small, but airy and elegantly laid out. The lineup includes a selection of seasonal baskets, caramels, creams, jumbo peanut butter cups, unique treats like pumpkin pie almonds, and trek bars named for her Jack Russell terrier, Luther.
A best-selling bar, “Lemon Blue,” is crafted with 73 percent Haitian chocolate, dried lemons and blueberries. Another popular bar is ginger apricot, made with 70 percent bittersweet chocolate, produced with beans from the Caribbean. Both bars are plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.
It was important to Krulac to cultivate a relationship with bean-to-bar companies to ensure consistency and quality.
“Everyone goes through the same steps, but how they do it and how long they do it impacts the flavor and creaminess,” she said. “Flavors are different in each area. For instance, in South America, you get floral and fruity flavor notes, while flavor notes from Africa are earthy. It’s a lot like ‘terroir’ in the wine world.”
If you’re stumped when it comes to hostess gifts, or need to purchase a present for someone who seems to have everything, a collection of international chocolates can double as a conversation piece.
Krulac’s curated truffle collections are both entertaining and educational. An ultra-dark “Black Beauty Collection” reads, “Come to the dark side,” and offers information on the cocoa content and from what region the collection hails (in this case, France, Italy, Belgium and the United States).
“This allows customers to compare their complex variations side by side,” she said.
Inside each box is a card detailing the inspiration behind each truffle. For example, the Italian truffle in the “Black Beauty Collection” is explained in depth, from the history of chocolate in Italy to the region where it is grown (Umbria) to the cocoa content. It even includes a historical, humorous tidbit, stating that Cardinal Francesco Maria Brancaccio was said to have dispensed a hot chocolate drink at Mass and, after imbibing, required that congregants go to confession.
Krulac said that customers can look forward to seasonal curated truffle collections, as well. An upcoming, six-piece Christmas collection, called “Comfort and Joy,” will include flavors like sugarplum, cranberry pistachio, gingerbread and a new Belgium chocolate called ruby chocolate.
Joy of Opening
Deb Pekala of Mechanicsburg said that she’s been a customer for years and has watched Krulac evolve into the chocolatier that she is now.
“She has a special talent for creating unique flavors with her chocolates like strawberry balsamic pepper, for instance,” Pekala said. “It’s unexpected, but unique and wonderful.”
Suzanne Drda visited the shop on opening day during Camp Hill’s Harvest Hop in September.
“Diane puts her heart into everything and really thinks things out to tie flavors to the various seasons,” she said.
The Camp Hill resident said that she recently tried a lemon basil truffle.
“It was excellent,” she said. “She decorates beautifully, and they package them nicely with a bow.”
Drda said that she loves another Camp Hill business, Cornerstone Coffeehouse, as well as the truffle that owner Sue Pera teamed up with Krulac to make. Pera said that the special truffle is called a “Latte Lovers Caramel.”
“Our customers love her unique, handmade candy,” Pera said. “The fact that she has moved in right down the street means that we have one more woman-owned business that we can proudly add to our list.”
Krulac echoed that sentiment, pleased that she has joined a group of supportive and successful female entrepreneurs who have also chosen to do business in the revitalized, walkable area.
“I feel like the past 17 years have led me to this moment when I have the joy of opening a truly unique, fine chocolate shop in my hometown and to offer chocolate lovers in the region a place where they’ll always find something new and incredibly delicious,” she said.
Cocoa Creek Chocolates is located at 18 S. 18th St., Camp Hill. Visit their webpage at www.cocoacreekchocolates.com or the Facebook page.
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