25 Years of Bees, Honey and Chocolate

ART HOP 062JPEGMeet Gary Coffey, our Director of Retail Sales and resident honey expert.  Gary’s Lake Champlain Chocolates
story started about 25 or so years ago.   (Exact time is unknown, because at some point along the way Gary admits that he just stopped counting.)  After spending some time abroad, exploring Europe and the Middle East, Gary decided it was time to settle down.  Vermont was the place he wanted to be, “I was just drawn to the beauty of Vermont.”

While searching for a job, Gary was intrigued by Lake Champlain Chocolates.  “I was blown away by the level of chocolate.  What Jim [Lampman] was doing was unheard of at the time — using fresh, local Vermont ingredients and creating delicious gourmet chocolates.  Back then, quality chocolate only came from Belgium or Switzerland.”

At first meeting the two immediately hit it off.  “Jim had this passion for creating great tasting chocolate, a meticulous attention for detail, and this profound drive for success.  It was something I wanted to be a part of.” In the beginning Gary started with a seasonal job in production.  “I spent 40 hours a week standing at the [confection] table hand-rolling truffles.Fudge & Apples 013  We had a lot of fun joking around, but it was hard work.”  Gary’s most memorable day at Lake Champlain Chocolates came sometime after the busy holiday season passed.  Jim found himself in need of a retail manager and offered the full-time position to Gary.  The rest is LCC history.

Today, Gary oversees the operations of our three Vermont retail stores and cafes.  He enjoys being involved with retail on a day to day basis where he can connect with both the staff and the customers.  “It’s about sharing the chocolate and sharing in this happy experience…Nothing makes me happier than happy customers.”  As a true chocolate fanatic, Gary loves to share his passion of tasting and chocolate.  Simply ask him about his favorite chocolate (currently the retail exclusive Raspberry Vienna) or about pairing chocolate and beer and cheese, and watch his face light up with excitement!

Extracting honeyWhen Gary’s not busy promoting our chocolate factory tours, making sure the stores are stocked with our award-winning ice cream or helping to hand-whip a fresh batch of fudge, you can find him tending to his bees.  It was the late Uncle Ira that first introduced Gary to beekeeping and honey production when he was just a little boy.  But, it wasn’t until sometime around 2011 that Gary’s dreams of being a beekeeper came to fruition with four hives at the local Intervale Center.  “For me, what I love the most about beekeeping is the feeling of being connected to the land and about not only knowing where your food comes from, but of actually working to help create it.”

The bees serve a dual purpose at the community garden center; they help to pollinate the locally grown produce of Half Pint Farm and they also create the rich, golden honey we use in our Honey Ice Cream.  Vermont honey is just one of the many local ingredients we use to craft our delicious confections, like Honey Caramels or Caramel Five Star Bars.

For Gary and Lake Champlain Chocolates beekeeping is more than just about producing great tasting honey and chocolates made with honey.  Bees play a key role in the sustainable sourcing of local ingredients.  (As a lifetime member of The Xerces Society and supporter of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, Lake Champlain Chocolates values the important role the bee population plays in our community and environment.)  Beekeeping is also one of the many steps in our company’s sourcing journey towards increased transparency, “our dreams and our goals are to have 100% transparency for all the ingredients we use.”