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A chocolate shop opens in Middlebury

ALLAN SIROTKIN AND Hanna Loeffler are ready to serve customers in a new chocolate store in downtown Middlebury that features a variety of sweet products from around the world. They prefer to call themselves “chocolate curators” and are delighted to connect customers to the stories behind each chocolate bar. Independent photo/Caroline Jiao

MIDDLEBURY— On Main Street, down a flight of stairs on the south side of Otter Creek Bridge is a recently opened chocolate store — Adagio Chocolates. 

When owner Allan Sirotkin became a chocolatier back in the day, he recalls that there were only five companies in the U.S. making chocolate from cacao beans. 

“It’s a great art, making chocolate, if one is making from the bean,” he said. 

The world of chocolates has become much more diverse, but it still goes back to the bean. So Sirotkin and shop mate Hannah Loeffler have dedicated Adagio Chocolates to sourcing their wares from growers and chocolatiers from all over the world, and then educating customers about each chocolate’s background.

The two prefer to be called chocolate curators because the unique thing about this shop is every product can be traced back to a specific farm in a certain country. 

“We have 24 different chocolatiers that we work with, 27 source countries, over 200 products, and a total of 36 different countries that are represented in the store,” said Loeffler.

Sirotkin expanded on the concept.

“By connecting people to where the chocolate comes from, which is one of the things we’re doing here, it makes it transparent what’s happening along the way,” Sirotkin said.

Educating customers about the multi-layered process of chocolate farming and manufacturing, and the effort and resources that goes into it, is an important mission at Adagio. 

According to Loeffler, most products they feature are bars made by chocolatiers who buy beans from a farmer they can identify. In a few cases, the farmers are the chocolate makers. In a few others, it is a step further as the farm makes the beans into chocolate materials, and then the chocolatier forms them into bars. 

“If you’re paying two dollars for a chocolate bar, think about how much money the farmers must get. Not too much.” Sirotkin said. “It just can’t be. If we want fair trade, we have to be paying a fair price for our products. And that’s what we’re trying to feature here.”

“If you think about it,” said Loeffler, “when you pay a certain price for a chocolate, by the time you’re done you’ve paid for the manufacture, you’ve paid for the sugar that goes into it, you’ve paid for the milk, how much is the farmer of the cacao making? So people say, ‘Oh my gosh you want me to pay that much for a chocolate.’ Yes, actually! And here’s why!” 

Loeffler said she is most excited about the education piece of the job. 

“There’s so much more to chocolate than I thought there was, and I want to bring that to people,” she said. “There’s a whole world that people don’t know about, and I want them to know about it.”

The taste of chocolate with its many different flavors and undertones, to Sirotkin, is a lot like wine. 

“It’s such a unique food that’s influenced by where it’s grown and how it’s processed,” he said. 

Hardcore chocolate lovers can also buy bulk chocolate at the store. 

“It’s a cheaper way to invest in chocolate,” said Sirotkin. “For bars, you’re paying for packaging and all that. If you’re just devouring chocolate, why not get the bulk and save the packaging.” 

THE SHELF AGAINST a wall arranges, from milk to dark, an array of jars filled with chocolate callets from different chocolate producers. Customers are welcome to pick and combine flavors they like.
Independent photo/Caroline Jiao

Customers are also welcome to select combinations of chocolate callets if they prefer more flavors in a packet. There is a shelf that features scores of jars of various callets displayed by milk percentage. One made with a special Ruby cacao bean with an innate fruity flavor is $22 per pound. Other kinds  like one labeled “Tcho, Mighty Mosaic, 62% Dark” is $15 per pound. The “Valrhona Guanaja, 70% Dark” is $31 per pound. 

Walking inside the store, one immediately faces an entire shelf — marked by a stained glass centerpiece that Sirotkin’s father made for him — of chocolate bars carefully displayed like artworks, arranged from milk to dark, each with its own packaging design done by the makers, many showcasing traditional cultural patterns or animals and plants of the region. 

The owners said their concept is to learn the customers’ flavor preferences before introducing them to products they might like. 

Loeffler made sure the interior design of the shop is done with care. The walls feature posters she crafted that tell the stories of each chocolatier or farm, and the customers are invited to scan the QR code on each poster to learn more about them on the Adagio website. 

A map of the world on the wall gives a visual representation of the footprint of their products. The flags indicate the sourcing farms, and the pins identify the manufacturers.  

“In some places, they are the same,” Loeffler said. “Some of them are bean-to-bar chocolatiers that have their own plantations.”

SWEET BACKGROUND

In the early 1970s, Sirotkin worked in the food business, starting out in food co-ops in Ann Arbor, Mich. Later, he moved to upstate New York, where he opened a yogurt factory in 1979 and a restaurant in 1982. During his restaurant days, he discovered chocolate manufacturers that sold 10-pound chocolate bars. Then he moved to Vermont in 1995 and started his own small chocolate shop, Green River Chocolates in Hinesburg, where he sold various chocolate bars and confections. 

A diagnosis of stage-four colon cancer in 2007 brought him to retirement, though his passion for chocolate didn’t wane. 

“I still have this love for chocolate and was buying lots of them,” Sirotkin said. “I had chocolate in my house. I bought chocolates for my friends. I do special orders for the Town Hall Theater for some of their fundraisers.”

At that point he got teased about opening a chocolate shop in town. 

“My wife, Jackie, had said, ‘Why don’t you get the chocolate out of the house?’” Sirotkin related, looking around the new shop. “Well, this wasn’t quite what she had in mind, I think.” 

THE SHOP HAS carefully placed on a display table various chocolate bars and confections from unique chocolatiers around the world. Customers are encouraged to browse.
Independent photo/Caroline Jiao

Sirotkin became interested in the idea of opening a shop featuring a great variety of chocolates from around the world. 

“I like the look of many chocolates,” he joked. 

Working at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival in the summer of 2023, Sirotkin met Hanna Loeffler, whom he initially hired as a start-up consultant and who is now working part-time managing Adagio Chocolates (they plan for her to eventually run the business). 

The current hope is to hire another hand for the shopping and shipping aspect. The goal is, as the business matures and stabilizes once Loeffler takes a greater role in September, for Sirotkin to gradually spend more time in retirement with his wife in their home in Arizona. They are planning on a grand opening at the Town Hall Theater this fall. 

Loeffler, a trained chef with than 20 years of food-service experience, has been excited about the idea of the shop since Sirotkin called her in. 

She got an Uber scholarship in 2021 and was accepted in Arizona State University to study organizational leadership, planning to graduate in December 2026. She studied in Eastern Europe in 2022 and the Dominican Republic in 2023. Coming back to Vermont, she worked locally as a tour guide for Green Mountain Tours and Vermont Tasting Tours. Currently she is working full-time at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival and part-time at the shop.

During her travels Loeffler said she discovered she wanted to make a difference in a good way. 

“I figured out in the years of food service, the thread that ran through was my passion for working with people, and this sounds so cliché, working for good causes,” she said. 

Adagio Chocolates at 52 Main St., Middlebury, is open Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.

As the business gets on track, Sirotkin and Loeffler are thinking bigger, envisioning chocolate-tasting classes and tours to local chocolatiers. 

“That’s what we’re here for. It’s the storytelling,” Sirotkin said. 

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