Rocky Mountain Chocolate
23 Rowan St.
When 40-year-old Corner Brook native Derrick Costello opened the door to his new Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store in Churchill Square, he had planned on a soft or low-key first week.
Maybe he had forgotten it was Father’s Day weekend, or perhaps he had vastly underestimated the popularity of the well-established North American chocolate brand in Newfoundland and Labrador.
I had an inkling of the fervour with which Rocky Mountain Chocolate would be received by Newfoundlanders when I tweeted weeks ago that a store would be opening in St. John’s.
The reaction to my tweet was immediate and entirely positive. Most of the responses were of the “Can’t wait!” or “Love that chocolate!” variety. Recently someone tweeted, “Well, there goes next week’s entire paycheque!”
No doubt these fans will be thrilled to learn that a second and third Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store is planned for Commonwealth Avenue, Mount Pearl, and, one day, on Water Street in St. John’s.
Derrick Costello said, “It was just crazy.” He told me that his staff were completely overwhelmed by the number of customers they served during opening week. Things became so hectic he had to hire more employees. Rocky Mountain chocolatier, David Tjart, who arrived from Vancouver to help train staff, was obliged to pitch in and make more chocolate products to keep up with the demand. The St. John’s opening is now, officially, the biggest, most successful opening of any Rocky Mountain Factory store in Canada.
The dream of opening a Rocky Mountain Chocolate store in
St. John’s began quite a while ago for Derrick Costello, who describes himself as “a born entrepreneur.”
He opened his first business, a camera shop, in Stephenville in 1997 at the age of 23. About a dozen years later he created Newfoundland Camera Imaging in Churchill Square.
Just over three years ago, he was travelling and met a Rocky Mountain Chocolate executive. Costello was already a fan of Rocky Mountain products. They had a discussion about there not being a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store in St. John’s, or anywhere else in Newfoundland for that matter. That’s when Costello decided to take the plunge and buy a franchise.
Made in store
Since then he has, with his own hands and some help from friends, developed the Rocky Mountain space in the Churchill Square building, which he owns (Newfoundland Camera Imaging is next door) and he has purchased a Mount Pearl site, and a building on Water Street.
The Mount Pearl location will be the next Rocky Mountain to be constructed. When the time is right, his Water Street building will likely be renovated and transformed into a flagship downtown Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
Rocky Mountain’s success is partly due to the tremendous variety of quality dark and milk chocolate and confectionary items they offer. Costello claims that very soon his store will actually be making in-house almost 98 per cent of their own products.
He himself is a hands-on chocolatier, having received intensive training at Rocky Mountain Canada headquarters in Vancouver, as well as working at one of the company’s large Vancouver outlets.
Apart from a handful of items that will be shipped in, such as Rocky Mountain ice creams, Costello and his 12 permanent chocolatiers will be making everything from sea foams and Rocky Pop popcorn to chocolate caramel apples (in two sizes) and every possible kind of chocolate — with or without sugar.
I was wowed by some dark chocolate with nuts and enjoyed a sugarless chocolate peanut butter cup. But, I was absolutely ecstatic (as well as nostalgic) over their superb rum raisin gelato, or ice cream.
You simply can’t buy it anywhere else these days. By the way, Rocky Mountain produces 150 flavours of ice cream. Costello had a difficult time deciding which ones to carry here because they all sounded so good.
Parents may like to know that Derrick Costello plans to offer something at his store that very few Rocky Mountain stores in North America offer: children’s birthday parties.
He has developed a space in the building where kids can gather, wear a chef’s hat and learn how to be a chocolatier.
They’ll be shown how to dip apples and marshmallows in chocolate and how to make s’mores.
What kid wouldn’t want to be Willy Wonka?
From what I’ve seen, I think this perpetually smiling Newfoundlander named Derrick Costello is having the time of his life in his chocolate factory.
He told me that learning to be a chocolatier was the best experience he’s had in his 20 years in business.
He loves seeing people walk into the store and suddenly develop a broad grin. (His store does feel happy, bright and energetic.)
I’ll finish with this quote from Costello that I believe speaks to this guy being more than someone who just wants to make a buck — not that there’s anything wrong with a businessman wanting to make a buck.
“I love Churchill Square,” he said. “It’s a neighbourhood gathering place. I’d like to see a Santa Claus out there at Christmas ringing a bell as snowflakes fall.
You know, stuff we remember from childhood. I’ve been looking for things to put here that would evoke that kind of feeling.
Every neighbourhood needs that kind of square, where you can go for a walk and buy your fresh vegetables, and get an ice cream. I really wanted to bring that local feeling back.
And what better way to get to somebody’s heart than with chocolate?”
Well, I’d say it’s a start.
Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef, author of “Cooking with One Chef One Critic” and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Contact him through his website,
Follow him on Twitter: @karl_wells