Chocolate-lovers need to stock up while they can, because Central Arkansas’s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker is about to close.
Izard Chocolate will say goodbye to its customers on Saturday, March 23.
“It’ll probably be a slightly emotional day,” Nathaniel Izard said Wednesday. “A lot of long-term customers, long-time customers, so it’ll be sad to see them go, or sad to say goodbye. But, at the same time, I think, when it’s, once it’s all done, there will be a little sigh of relief.”
Izard, who launched the business five years ago, decided at the start of 2019 that it was time for a change.
“It’s definitely not your typical closedown,” he explained. “I think most people think that business is in trouble when they’re closing down. And honestly, we had our best year in 2018.”
Izard said he started the company when he was 22 years old. He had left his previous job and decided to explore his passion for chocolate. He made a few flavors and sold them at the farmers’ market.
“It was a lot of fun,” he recalled, “and I was like, ‘maybe I can turn this into a real business endeavor.’”
The storefront opened one year later. Izard said sales doubled each of the first two years and continued growing at a slower pace in the last two. As 2018 came to a close, Izard felt that the business and his life were both coming to a crossroads.
“It had kind of gotten to that uncomfortable area,” he said, “of, ‘okay, do we keep it, do we keep it kind of where it’s at? Or, do we really kind of take that next jump and grow it to a much bigger company?
“And at this time in my life, I decided I didn’t really want to grow it quite that much. I didn’t want to go big. Just the responsibility. And, it’s almost like starting a whole new business over again, to take it to that next level.”
Izard said the demands of the job were starting to wear him down. He runs the business and makes the chocolate. Izard Chocolate makes approximately 500 bars per day and sells both in its storefront on Beechwood Street in the Hillcrest neighborhood and in roughly 50 other stores statewide. Aside from its owner, the company has one full-time employee and adds a few part-time workers during the winter. Izard said more than half of his annual sales occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, and another 20 percent occur near Valentine’s Day.
“And it’s definitely an owner-operated business,” he added, “so I’m very much here working most of the time.”
Izard said starting a company had long been a dream of his, but he is comfortable with the decision to end it. He considered selling it but said that he did not want someone else running a business with his name on it.
“We’ll just kind of close out,” he stated, “and say, ‘that was a good time.’”
Izard plans to have free hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows for customers who visit on the store’s final day. He said he will miss his long-time customers, many of whom live in the surrounding neighborhood, but he does not fear the company’s closure.
“Check that one off as a success,” he said. “But there are quite a few other things that I’d like to do, and really cool, fun, creative things.”
Izard is not ready to reveal the next step in his business career, but said he is confident that Izard Chocolate’s run gave him skills and confidence that will help him in any future endeavor. It did not, on the other hand, give him much time for vacations.
“I am going to take some time off, but I’ll be back, and hopefully to continue to help contribute to making Little Rock a cooler, more awesome space.”
He encouraged anyone else thinking about launching their own business to take that leap of faith. “Too many people try to wait until they have, feel like they have everything kind of figured out,” he mentioned, “and then they start. And then it’s, it could be too late.”