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Small Business Awards: Success was a surprise for Cocoa Dolce owner

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, April 19, 2012, at 7:15 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, April 19, 2012, at 7:33 a.m.

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Beth Tully on Cocoa Dolce

What is the most important factor that helped you compete in the past year?

“We’ve been unnaturally successful in all ways when you look at where we should have landed and what we’ve done. I credit the local community for enabling us to stay competitive. We have a motto: We’re only as good as the last chocolate we sold. That speaks to the quality and the customer experience, and we’re very aware that without the local community we wouldn’t succeed. I try to never take that for granted.”

What is something about your company that would surprise Wichita?

“Maybe they’d be surprised to know that over 6½ years, we’ve employed every possible family member we could, some positively and some negatively. My mother is the bookkeeper, my stepson is the chef, and my husband’s sister is a customer service manager. This is very much a family business.”

What’s next for your company?

“We want to grow. When Jay and I started the company, we thought after 10 years we’d either sell it if it worked or fold it if it didn’t. But now, after the commitments we’ve made to employees, after all the people who’ve decided to stay and grow the company with us, we’re a legacy company. It’s time for us to look at how we create more value, not only for Jay and me, but for the legacy employees behind us who want to see the business grow.”

More information

Cocoa Dolce

Founded: 2005

Owner: Beth Tully

Employees: 31

Address: 2132 N. Rock Road, Suite 100

Phone: 316-866-2906

Website: www.cocoadolce.com

Almost seven years into the gourmet chocolate business, Cocoa Dolce owner Beth Tully freely admits she’s surprised by the company’s success.

“We just sit back a lot and count our blessings,” said Tully, a trained speech therapist who stepped out of a successful sales career to make chocolates.

“I’m not somebody who has a real ‘divine intervention’ kind of thing, but I realize how grateful and fortunate we are to have a business grow in such a great time like this, not to mention a great staff and a quality product.”

Maybe not divine intervention, but perhaps the intervention of George Laham, architect of Bradley Fair. Cocoa Dolce moved to Laham’s shopping center in 2009, and Tully credits her store’s success in part to the appeal of the center and the customers it draws.

Tully and her husband, Jay, were happy in their original location at Siena Plaza.

“We had a hard time finding a space when we first opened, and we were lucky to land there,” she said. “We were happy there, and we didn’t have any grandiose thoughts. A little outside the golden circle, but we were thriving there.

“Other than outgrowing our space, we had no reason to move. And then George came to me in 2009 with a proposal. Harold’s had gone out of that space, and George had made a deal with Il Vicino, but he’d carved out this little space in a funky shape he wanted me to consider.”

Tully was initially skeptical.

“I mean, I said to George, ‘It’s in a corner and back by a trash can.’ I couldn’t see it,” she said. “He persisted, and it truly was the best thing possible to rocket us ahead.”

The results were immediate, and were driven by Bradley Fair foot traffic.

“That first year was like Christmas every day,” Tully said. “When you’re a little business in a big city like Wichita that likes its retail, you can only dream about creating a destination. We’re one of the fortunate few where that happened.”

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Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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