MERIDEN — As the chocolate season approaches, Thompson Chocolate on South Vine Street is busy displaying a variety of milk chocolate and dark chocolate Easter eggs and rabbits wrapped in colorful foil, some packaged by hand, and tied in pastel ribbon.
In the factory section of the South Vine Street building, however, Easter preparations have been underway since October.
“We operate about six to eight months ahead of any holiday,” said Kevin Scarpati, sales and marketing manager for Thompson Chocolate and the Mayor of Meriden.
“Easter is our biggest holiday, from a production standpoint, from our store retail standpoint.”
Since January 2018, when he joined the company as a brand ambassador, Scarpati said he has learned a good deal about the company and chocolate.
“I have learned more about chocolate, in the last year since I’ve been working here, than I ever thought I would in my life,” he said.
Thompson Chocolate was founded in 1879 by William H. Thompson. The 120,000-square-foot factory and store has been at its current location since 1973.
The building is five stories tall, with mostly production space on the main floor and shipping in the basement. The top floor is used primarily for washing chocolate molds and storing inventory.
Around 80 people work on the factory floor. Bob Lis, chief operating officer, is in charge of making sure production runs smoothly. The factory makes its own chocolate, as well as for other companies.
The hollow chocolate Easter bunnies are hand-foiled and hand-tied, which takes about 30 to 40 seconds for each piece.
“It ’s an assembly line of chocolate where they’re hand-wrapping it,” Scarpati said.
The bigger bunnies are created by pouring chocolate in a large mold by hand.
Solid Easter rabbits come in milk, dark or white chocolate with Easter crosses.
The “Spring Bunny,” a small hollow milk chocolate rabbit, is already sold out. “They’re big sellers at Easter time,” Scarpati said.
Working alongside thousands of pounds of chocolate every day, Lis and Scarpati can’t help but have a favorite treat.
“Any of the dark chocolates are great,” Lis said.
For Scarpati, the chocolate coins packaged in colorful mesh bags evoke a childhood memory.
“I just remember sitting in my elementary school having those chocolates and then coming here...full circle,” Scarpati said.
The factory has hundreds of different metal stamps with logos and images that are stamped on the coins. Tiny Castle Craig images are stamped on Meriden-themed coins.
“I particularly enjoy the people,” Lis said. “This group of people (in the) plant, just outstanding to work with.”
- Record Journal, March 3, 2019