Success Stories: It's In the Tin
Erik Landegren, owner of Bridgewater Chocolate, says he’s always been “infatuated” with chocolate, so he was a perfect candidate to spend 15 years building a premium chocolate company. Yet he wasn’t always a chocolatier, nor always in Connecticut. Swedish born, he came to the University of Denver in 1981 to study restaurant management, returned home for his apprenticeship and came stateside again to launch New York’s lengendary Aquavit in 1986.
Then serendipity intervened in the form of a couple with a home in Bridgewater, and for the next few years he worked as their private chef, eventually providing prepared foods for the Bridgewater Village Store, which they‘d purchased. Then came a trip to Colorado, where he discovered the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. He was impressed with their “bear claws,” aka turtles, and focus on big American-style chocolates rather than petite European ones. Why not, he thought, marry American style with European quality?
He started making chocolate for the store under the name “Bridgewater Chocolate” in 1995 and in ’97 got a call from Joan Hamburg of WOR asking if he did mail order. Yes, he said (he hadn’t up to then). She aired a segment and suddenly the company was on the map.
In 1999 he moved manufacturing to Brookfield. In December, peak season, as many as 50 people, including his wife Patricia (“She’s the organized one,” he says, “and lets me do what I’m good at”), are working in production and sales, including mail order.
Landegren’s partner, Andrew Blauner, says sales are about $2.5 million a year—that’s 75,000 pounds of chocolate, with turtles and toffees the best-sellers. Bridgewater uses 13 kinds of domestic and imported chocolate, and except for dipping machines, everything is handmade.
The company today has four audiences—corporate, retail (in Brookfield, West Hartford and Bridgewater, where it all began), Internet and wholesale (Good News Cafe, Villarina’s, Dean & Deluca)—and is looking to expand further. Sweet success indeed.