Sweet Dreams

Eric and Crisoire Reid

Husband and wife team, Eric and Crisoire Reid, build their chocolate empire truffle by truffle.
Photos courtesy Eric Reid.

When Eric Reid ’92 and his wife, Crisoire, began farming their 300 acres in the Dominican Republic, their dream was to build a business that would sustain their families, both in the United States and the Dominican Republic. Over several years, they raised crops and livestock—papayas, tangerines, pigs, and cattle—and with each ag-venture, they learned more about large-scale farming and international markets.

“Farming is not easy,” says Reid, who manages the business overseas while working his day job with an IT contractor in Maryland. “A truckload of tangerines got us around $350–$400 at the local market, which is a lot of money … in the Dominican Republic, but not enough to build the business.”

While investigating the export markets, Reid was approached by a local land owner looking to sell his property. Reid knew the fertile mountaintop parcel was ripe with potential: the groves were newly established and just beginning to produce. What interested him most were the cacao trees.

Chocolate Truffles“We knew the cacao beans would be a successful commodity,” says Reid. “Cacao is a commodity used around the world; and it is newly in-demand in developing countries like China and India,” he says.

While the cacao, or cocoa, beans grew and matured, Reid ran into an unexpected roadblock in the supply chain: cooperatives. Essentially, cooperatives are highly structured financial arrangements between large international corporations and local growers; they effectively block new businesses from getting into the game. The only way for the Reids to bring their cocoa to market was to manufacture chocolate themselves.

In addition to building the infrastructure for harvesting, processing, and importing cocoa into the United States, the Reids attended culinary school to learn and perfect the art of making chocolate.

In February, the Reids opened SPAGnVOLA Chocolatier, a factory and retail shop in Gaithersburg, Md. Visitors can tour the factory downstairs, where they learn how cacao beans become the irresistible confections Crisoire creates upstairs: bonbons, truffles, and bars.

ChocolatesVisit spagnvola.com to learn more about SPAGnVOLA Chocolatier.

This article first appeared in the spring 2011 issue of Insights.

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