A Mouthwatering Interview with Business Owner, Zoe Tsoukatos of Zoe's Chocolate Co.

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

Zoe's Chocolate specializes in artisan chocolates with a mediterranean influence.

Zoe grew up along with her two brothers, Pantelis and Petros with the smell of melting chocolate, creating bonbons and sharing delicious treats with their friends and neighbors. Their father, George, worked as a master chocolatier for over 30 years.

However, in 2007 while they each were pursuing their individual careers, their Dad found himself out of work and the family decided to come together to open their own artisan chocolate shop in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.

Today, their chocolates have received national recognition and are sold in the finest shops and hotels, including Whole Foods, Williams Sonoma, Dean and DeLuca and other independent gourmet shops.

I come from a large family (5 sisters and a brother) and can only imagine that running a business together with siblings and parents could be very challenging at times. How does your family resolve conflicts that arise in running your business? Does someone have the final say or is it "majority rules"?

Family businesses can indeed be challenging due to the personal nature involved. In the beginning it took us some time to figure out what each other's strengths/weaknesses were and how we could work separately but together. We are big proponents of communication, so we believe in over communicating rather than under, which, of course, has helped us succeed.

Additionally, we have always had the same goals in mind. Of course, we do have conflicts, as no family or business is without them, but we resolve them by having open discussions. It's not so much as majority rules but rather we reach a compromise that fits all our opinions. We balance each other, support each other, and respect each other. I feel grateful for the opportunity to work with my family.

George Tsoukatos

What would your brothers and father say are your greatest strengths and talents that you bring to the business?

Petros' strength and talents are his love for cooking and his chocolate creations. Pantelis' greatest strength is his vision and persistence. My dad's greatest strength is his love for food and his incredible work ethic. I believe my greatest strength is my creativity and determination.

Additionally, we are all very family oriented and have always wanted our business to feel like an extension of our family. We enjoy learning about our customers and sharing our story.

Your chocolate flavors are delicious and are like nothing I have ever had before! I am particularly in love with the apple pie and baklava flavors. Who develops the flavors for your chocolates? Do you have an all-time favorite flavor?

Thank you! We discuss all the flavors beforehand as a group. We throw out ideas and suggestions and what pairs best together. Then, the magic begins and our vision becomes a piece. Once the initial piece is made we try them together and make suggestions on how to make them better. Once we give our critiques Petros creates additional pieces until we find the one that's just right.

My favorite is our baklava piece. I had a friend that once told me to choose your favorite, which is like choosing a favorite child, pick the one you can eat the most of :). Our baklava is one of our first creations in our Mediterranean line. I love baklava, the pastry, so our baklava chocolate just hits home for me.

I love that you honor your Greek heritage with the Mediterranean flavors in your chocolates. As a family what other Greek traditions do you keep alive outside of work?

Thanks! Our parents have kept most of the traditions alive in our family. For example, our mom makes a special bread on New Year's and Easter, which is probably the biggest holiday in Greece. These holidays are very special to us.

The chocolates not only taste amazing, they truly are works of art. As I know you are behind the beautiful brand design and packaging, do you also create the design and finished look of the chocolates?

I love how fun creating the chocolates and the designs can be. They're so beautiful sometimes that I almost don't even want to eat them (almost!). We do the colors together.

This past year has been so challenging for many businesses due to the global pandemic. How has Zoe’s chocolates had to pivot and adapt to these unforeseen circumstances? Have there been any upsides by these forced changes that will help your business going forward?

It certainly has been a challenging year for everyone in many ways. I must first say that I feel incredibly grateful for our health and that we are still in business. We are so thankful for all our customers who supported us and allowed us to continue doing what we love.

Having an online presence was really important and helped us sustain our business. We had to streamline a number of things during the pandemic, which had to be done quickly, but it helped us really focus on becoming even more efficient. Additionally, we had to think outside of the box and be creative to increase business online.

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