Today we’d like to introduce you to Heather Johnston.
Heather, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I launched Veruca Chocolates in 2011, after leaving a decade-long career as a pediatrician. I felt the need to attend to the other half of my brain, which was brimming over with creativity. To start, I focused on creating craveable and beautiful chocolate, which is what I want to eat. Next, I set about creating designs that would be exciting to see as a box is opened. When those two ideas came together, it clicked.
Now, my team and I make everything by hand at our chocolate lab at 2409 N. Western Ave. in Chicago. We give great attention to the fusion of artistry by creating enticing and exquisite chocolates that please the palate and the eye, and we stick to our governing rule: we don’t sell it unless we love it ourselves.
Has it been a smooth road?
Mostly smooth! We’ve been incredibly fortunate in having a wonderful, loyal customer base as well as fortunate in our press coverage, which have helped people know about us. In addition, I have an amazing team of chocolatiers and pastry chefs that work together beautifully.
One challenge for me personally was not having a business or food background meant that the climb uphill was even steeper at the start. Thankfully there were plenty of patient people and available online resources to learn.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
“They’re almost too beautiful to eat!” We hear this all the time. We work under the belief that it’s nice to eat beautiful food, and so we pay a lot of attention to both the inside and outside of each piece of chocolate. We are known for exceptional, unique and sometimes whimsical designs (our turtles, for example, are covered in a reptilian pattern and colored turtle-green). In addition, we have quite a few of what I think of as “nostalgic” products: we have an adult remake of s’mores, turtles and even Hanukkah gelt, which we call Gelt for Grown-Ups.
I truly believe that every single thing that we make is excellent quality. Because we are still a small company and make everything by hand, my eye is on all of the final products. We taste everything as we go, and don’t let anything pass that isn’t excellent. I am proud that we’ve been able to keep up such a high level of quality and beauty as we continue growing.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I’ve lived in Chicago my entire life, and I feel that it is a welcoming city, open to new ideas and new businesses. Chicagoans appreciate hard work and hard workers, and I find that they are truly supportive of the idea of a small local business.
In addition, lots of folks here have begun to shop local for more and more of their goods. In the day and age of internet shopping and instant fulfillment, it’s nice to see so many people coming over to buy in person. Also, since it’s such a large city, I have a lot of goods and services available to me as a business owner, which helps us broaden both our offerings and our reach.
- Address: 2409 N. Western Ave., Chicago IL 60647
- Website: www.verucachocolates.com
- Phone: 773-998-2462
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/verucachocolates
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/verucachocolates
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/VerucaChocs
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/veruca-chocolates-chicago
Photo of Heather, both S’mores, bonbons in a 4 layer box, bonbons in a 3×3 square: Paul Strabbing Photography
Rest of photo credit goes to: Veruca Chocolates