Hoffman’s Chocolates celebrates 40th anniversary while expanding

Hoffman’s Chocolates has been gracing the taste buds of Palm Beach County since the company opened its first store in downtown Lake Worth four decades ago.

As the homegrown candy-maker celebrates its 40th anniversary, its new corporate owner is moving forward with an ambitious expansion plan to open as many as six new retail stores next year.

When Fort Lauderdale-based BBX Sweet Holdings bought the chocolate company from the Hoffman family in December 2013, the business had four retail locations. Since then, BBX has opened three new Hoffman’s shops in Broward County. A fourth location is set to open in the coming weeks at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Jarett Levan, CEO and president of BBX Sweet Holdings, which owns eight candy companies across the country, said Hoffman’s plans to open three to six new retail shops in the coming year. Within the next five years, Levan said the chocolate company will be a “statewide brand.”

Despite the rapid expansion, BBX hasn’t changed much about the way Hoffman’s operates.

It still uses founder Paul Hoffman’s handwritten recipes. The company offers more than 70 varieties of confections, and all are still made at Hoffman’s Greenacres headquarters. Some of the items are handmade; others are made using the same machines that earned the Hoffman family its reputation decades ago.

“Our goal is to carry on that legacy and broaden its reach to customers in South Florida,” Levan said. “The recipe for success here is the tradition. It is the quality of the product, and it is the commitment to the community that this company has had.”

From chief chocolatier Rosemond Joseph, who’s worked at Hoffman’s 18 years, to Mary Saviano, a 19-year employee responsible for making each Hoffman’s almond cluster by hand, the candy crew is stacked with longtime employees. Paul Hoffman’s daughter, Sandra, still works for the company designing packaging and retail displays.

“They are doing what we wanted to do,” Sandra Hoffman said of the expansion efforts. “We have always envisioned Hoffman’s to be the See’s (Candy) of Florida.”

Hoffman’s has been in business since 1975, starting out in downtown Lake Worth at 813 Lucerne Ave. In the late 1980s, Hoffman’s moved to 5190 Lake Worth Road in Green­acres, which is both a store and the chocolate factory.

Through the years, families throughout Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast have come to know Hoffman’s for its Winter Wonderland, where families wander the forest of lighted displays or snuggle with Santa when he makes his frequent appearances. The company will host its 25th Winter Wonderland event this year.

Levan said the annual event has earned Hoffman’s a reputation across South Florida. Many families travel from Broward and Miami-Dade counties to visit the holiday display.

“Our goal and our focus is to maintain the tradition in Palm Beach County, but to take the recipe across South Florida,” Levan said.

As Hoffman’s looks to expand, Levan said it made sense to focus first on Broward County locations.

“People in Broward know Hoffman’s,” Levan said. “It was easy to enter the Broward market.”

Hoffman’s also hopes to expand its Good Fortunes line, which offers custom chocolate-covered cookies and graham crackers for weddings, birthdays and special events.

“We view this to be a great growth opportunity at Hoffman’s,” Levan said.

Ice cream and milkshakes, which are sold at all of Hoffman’s retail locations, have also become a big draw for customers, Levan said.

“They are coming in for ice cream or a milkshake and taking chocolates home with them,” Levan said.

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