NCET Biz Tips: Sweet temptations

NCET helps you explore business and technology

Bill Leonard

Bill Leonard

What is it about chocolate that holds a special place in the hearts and palates of people around the world? How does chocolate captivate our senses and emotions with its rich, complex flavors and textures? Is there something more at play here?

Suffice it to say that chocolate's widespread appeal is primarily due to factors that intertwine the biological, psychological, and cultural aspects of our human experience.

Those factors are: chemical composition (mood compounds); sensory experience (smooth and creamy to crisp and crunchy); flavor (bitter, sweet, fruity, or nutty); emotional (symbol of love, affection, and luxury); variety (dark, milk, and white); and psychological (comforting and an escape from stress).

Just discussing chocolate creates an I-need-it-now craving in many of us. Yes, you can drop by your local grocery store to pick up chocolate. Yet where do you go for a “step up” from grocery chocolate to chocolate that hits all five factors of the chocolate experience?

Enter Sierra Nevada Chocolate Co., (SNC) and its family-owned retail shop in Reno that provides quality handmade chocolates, toffee, truffles, custom gifts, and even gelato.

Most people don't know that SNC was first established in 1985 as a business that only took phone orders. In 2007, a new owner opened a brick-and-mortar retail shop. In 2017, Carol Reitz and her family acquired the business because of their love of chocolate and a means of allowing their autistic son Justin to be employed there.

Strangely enough, Carol had no background in chocolate or owning a business when the family purchased SNC. Carol had been the founder and executive director of a local nonprofit called the JUSTin Hope Foundation. Her vision has always been to make SNC a job site for individuals who want to pursue a career in food service. She is still doing that to this day.

SNC currently has three employees and three volunteers who job train. SNC also has four students who job train through the Washoe County School District (WCSD). Carol's son Justin and others train at the facility. SNC collaborates with Transition Academy through the WCSD to allow job training for adults aged 18-22.

Finally, SNC launched a job training program last April through the Vocational Rehabilitation Agency under the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. The program allows individuals with disabilities seeking job opportunities in food service to receive hands-on training. It's a very worthwhile endeavor married to their superb chocolate, truffle, and toffee-making.

Now, back to the delicious truffles and buttery toffee.

Justin & Friends' TOFFEE (The Opportunity for Fundraising, Equity & Empowerment) is handmade in small batches. The toffee is all-natural and made with only a few select ingredients. The buttery goodness comes in a variety of different flavors. This scrumptious toffee is also available to individuals and organizations for fundraising with solid margins for their cause.

The truffles are all hand-rolled and to die for. There are 40 over-the-counter truffle and bark flavors to choose from. You can build your own box or pick one of their ready-to-go boxes.

Challenges. It’s no secret that COVID hit retail establishments especially hard. SNC was not spared the loss of business. Building store foot traffic back up to pre-COVID levels has been slow. Higher use of social media has been promising. Finally, all of us have been impacted by inflation, resulting in higher food prices. SNC's suppliers have been forced to raise their pricing, which in turn impacts SNC's pricing.

Finding a shop in Reno that makes and sells its own over-the-counter handmade, high-quality chocolates, truffles, toffees, and custom gifts is not an easy task. I am unaware of any chocolate shop in Reno that has, as part of its vision, the desire to prepare individuals with differing abilities to become contributing members of our society.

Sierra Nevada Chocolate Co., is an amazing chocolate shop you need to visit. Visit SNC not just to satisfy your sweet tooth but also to support SNC’s efforts to prepare individuals with differing abilities for employment in the food service industry.

If you want to learn more about Sierra Nevada Chocolate Co.’s story and sample their delectable chocolates and other sweet temptations, you have an opportunity right around the corner at NCET Tech Wednesday on March 13.

Sign up early for Sierra Nevada Chocolate Co.’s presentation from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. with networking from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. During your visit, you will…

• Learn the art of hand-rolling truffles

• Venture into the treasure trove basement filled with packaging materials, decorations, and thousands of molds

• Gain insight into the behind-the-scenes operation that makes SNC a beacon of craftsmanship and innovation

• Discover all the chocolate truffle options

• Watch Justin craft his Justin and Friends’ TOFFEE

So don't be late. Register now by visiting

Bill Leonard is VP of Communications at NCET and a ghostwriter for industry thought leaders to amplify your brand and extend your influence. Connect with Bill at Case Study Ink on LinkedIn. NCET produces education and networking events to help people explore business and technology. 


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