By MEGHAN PIERCE
PETERBOROUGH — Scrumdiddlyumptious! The town’s bean-to-bar chocolate factory is now owned and run by a pair of teen entrepreneurs.
Nate Morison and Casey Goodrich, both 17, bought the Vicuña Chocolate Factory from founder Neely Cohen the first week of July.
They hit the ground running — learning the secrets of the chocolate factory, expanding café hours, and launching a store website for online sales. They also want to increase wholesale sales by taking their entrepreneurial show on the road.
“We want to go out and really attack the wholesale market,” Goodrich said at an open house Saturday. “Neely has created an awesome product and an awesome store and we’re just really excited to come in and give it our all and see what we can do.”
Morison, of Peterborough, graduated early from ConVal and was an entrepreneur chomping at the bit.
“I have a landscaping business as well. I’ve had that for the past three years,” Morison said.
“He wanted a little bit more than his landscaping business,” Goodrich said.
Morison added, “I was ready for the next step.”
When his mother told him the chocolate factory was for sale it got his entrepreneurial gears turning, he said.
“My mom actually mentioned it to me, ‘Hey Nate, how cool would it be to own a chocolate factory?,’” Morison said.
They were already fans of Vicuña chocolate, he said.
“My mom has a lot of food allergies, including a dairy allergy,” he said. “Because the chocolate is just cocoa beans and cane sugar this is one of the only sweets that they can eat.”
After meeting with Cohen about the business, Morison realized he couldn’t do this alone, so he asked his best friend, Goodrich to join him.
Goodrich, who will be a senior at The Derryfield School in Manchester this fall, said it was an exciting opportunity and a way for him to become an entrepreneur himself.
Cohen has been onsite with them teaching them the trade. Their parents and other family members have also stepped up to help them run the business.
And because they are under 18, their parents are involved in the business side of the company for now.
“Our parents are the custodians of the actual company and that really has no other affect other than we have to get them to sign checks really until December through the end of this year,” Morison said.
Vicuña Chocolate uses ethically sourced organic cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic, Belize, Bolivia, Ecuador and Guatemala to make its chocolate bars.
It’s a rare process in the United States, Morison said.
Cohen was in the factory training workers Saturday during the open house. She said Morison and Goodrich took ownership on July 3 and she will be available to them for training and consultation through the end of the month.
When she lived in Peru she harvested and roasted cacao in the Amazon jungle. She chose the name Vicuña for her chocolate factory because the Peruvians believed vicuña to be the wild ancestor of the alpaca. She is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute and in 2012 won Food Network’s pastry chef competition series Sweet Genius. In the fall of 2014, she came home to Peterborough to start Vicuña.
Cohen said Saturday she can now follow her heart to her next adventure.
“Which happens to be on the other side of the world,” she said.
Cohen is moving to Tel Aviv where she plans to teach cooking classes and run culinary tours.
“I think the process of creating it was an incredible experience,” Cohen said. “I feel like after growing up in this town I was able to bring back something to the place that I grew up. And plant the seeds for some people to take what I created and run with it and take it to the next level.”
The café is located at 15 Main Street. Morison and Goodrich plan to expand the store hours from just Saturdays and Sundays to Tuesdays through Sundays. The expanded hours will help with expanding the chocolate factories presence regionally, Goodrich said.
You can also find Vicuña Chocolate online at /www.vicunachocolate.com