While Bitzel’s Chocolate may not have Willy Wonka manning the store, and the chocolate river is more akin to a chocolate trail, Suwanee’s newest confectionery will offer an immersive chocolate experience where visitors can learn about the production of their truffles, bonbons and chocolate bunnies from start to finish.

Slated to unlock its doors Jan. 17 at 453 Northolt Parkway, the shop opens into an artificial cacao forest, complete with paper leaves, replicas of orange-red cacao pods and real tree trunks. A brown path, called the journey of chocolate, encircles the shop and takes visitors through the different chocolate-making processes.

A counter at the front of the store promises an array of goodies conceived by Sabrina Coombs, Bitzel’s in-house chocolatier and executive chef. Coombs previously worked as the executive pastry chef for Atlanta’s Nobu Hotel and Epicurean Hotel before joining the company in March 2023, but chocolate is where her passion lies.

“I love chocolate because of the science of it, and the ever-growing knowledge that you can have from it,” she said.

The 7,000-square-foot facility houses a seating area for customers, a gelato counter that will serve a rotating mix of flavors, a retail section to peruse the day’s treats and, the main event, the journey of chocolate.

Visitors can see how their chocolate is made, starting with a video that shows the Ugandan and Ecuadorian farms from which owner Ray Bitzel sources his cacao beans. The journey details the fermenting process, then circles around the glass perimeter of the main chocolate factory where Coombs and her team temper the chocolate and operate the machinery that produces the candy, including an oversized chocolate bunny mold rotating in the air.

As customers take a walking tour of Bitzel’s Chocolate, they can watch chocolates actually being made through the massive glass walls of the facility. Photo from a preview tour on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024 of Bitzel’s Chocolate factory, a new chocolate shop opening in Suwanee, Ga. in January 2024. (CHRIS HUNT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)


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Bitzel wanted to incorporate an immersive experience into the shop so customers could see how intensive the process of chocolate making really is, from harvesting the beans all the way to packaging the chocolate bars.

“We just didn’t want to hide (it),” Bitzel said. “What you see is what you get.”

The chocolate menu will be ever-evolving, but to start, Coombs said they’ll offer bonbons, molded chocolates, chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate-covered nuts and an assortment of chocolate bark with flavors like dark chocolate raspberry, rocky road, confetti and white chocolate apricot with almonds.

In addition to classic dark and white chocolate, Bitzel’s is offering ruby chocolate, which comes from the ruby cacao tree and possesses a natural rose color. The flavor has hints of raspberry with a yogurt tang, great for mixing with dark chocolate, Bitzel said.

This summer, they plan to introduce a Georgia peach truffle that looks like a baby peach on the outside with a filling of real fruit puree, and they will add gelato-filled bonbons to the menu, so it’ll be like biting into an ice cream sandwich.

Chocolates await packaging in the cold storage area which must have a controlled temperature and humidity prior to the chocolate's packaging. Photo from a preview tour of Bitzel's Chocolate factory on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, a new chocolate shop opening in Suwanee, Ga. in January 2024. (CHRIS HUNT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)


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Bitzel is no stranger to the ins and outs of running a chocolate shop; about 20 years ago, he owned Bellejais, a small chocolate shop in Woodstock. He said they hand-produced about 1,000 pieces a day and supplied companies like the Georgia Aquarium and the Atlanta Falcons. Bellejais came to an end after the Las Vegas resort Bellagio accused the company of trademark infringement, Bitzel said.

In the years following, he worked in various other industries, even living in Zurich and England for some time, but he couldn’t stay out of the chocolate business forever. He and his business partner, Dave Rose, decided to take a chance on Bitzel’s, and they kicked off the operation in February 2023.

This time around, he’ll be increasing production capabilities up to 250,000 pieces per day, he said, thanks to the extensive chocolate-making machinery in the store.

Bitzel’s Chocolate will offer tours that bring visitors inside the chocolate factory, and beginning in February, there will be chocolate-making workshops where attendees can learn about the science of chocolate and basic techniques. There will also be chocolate tastings and wine and chocolate pairing events. Prices for the tours and workshops will vary from $20-$120 per person and will require online reservations.

“People want to see (the process),” Bitzel said. “I think they really want to see everything because every other chocolate place hides what they do, and I don’t get that because it’s really cool.”

453 Northolt Parkway, Suwanee. 770-758-1550, bitzelschocolate.com.

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