Larry Bradley rolls out the red carpet for guests to his west Eugene chocolate store, Chocolate Decadence. “The first thing I do is offer them chocolate,” Larry told me as I walked in.
Instead of a handshake, he hands you a scoop with a button, a sample of his gluten-free, dairy-free dark chocolate. The glorious thing about Larry’s chocolate is it doesn’t taste like it’s missing anything. If you tried it without looking at the label, you’d never know it didn’t have milk or gluten in it.
Larry bought Chocolate Decadence two years ago after Googling ‘businesses for sale in Eugene, OR’. Chocolate Decadence popped up. A former office equipment sales manager, Larry wanted to return to the business world after taking time off to write a book about kids with cancer. His son was diagnosed with leukemia at age nine. That son is now in remission, thriving and teaching English in France. Larry and his wife are trying to learn French so they can visit him. Larry proudly reports they recently mastered the French words for ‘lemonade’ and ‘pear.’
Before diving into a completely new business venture, Larry tasted the chocolate. “I thought, this is a diamond in the rough,” Larry said. He was in love. The chocolate was dark, smooth, and rich. The problem was the website hadn’t been updated since 1996, and the packaging didn’t reflect the quality of what was inside the wrapper. Larry had a solution.
Two years later, Chocolate Decadence is turning out twice the amount of chocolate as before and expanding to four retailers just in time for the holiday season.
Larry also does something very few chocolatiers do: he takes the cocoa from the bean to the bar. He buys cocoa beans, grinds them up, removes the chocolate “nibs”, adds the cocoa butter and vanilla and pours the chocolaty goodness into molds. The result? Some of the purist, most unique chocolate you will ever taste.
Larry took a risk in buying Chocolate Decadence and he hasn’t stopped. His persistence landed his chocolate on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.“I figured I needed a vegan friend who is a celebrity,” Larry told me. He thought Ellen, a vegan, was the perfect fit. So Larry drove to Anaheim, CA, with a cooler full of ice and a 13-pound chocolate sculpture in the shape of Ellen’s logo. The chocolate almost didn’t make it past the Warner’s Bros. gates, but Larry told the security guards the great lengths he took to get there. “I drove 16 hours here with the air conditioning on so this thing wouldn’t melt,” said Larry. “They must have felt sorry for me.”
But Larry has nothing to feel sorry about. His son is healthy. His business is flourishing and he gets to spend every day making chocolate, chocolate that will leave you asking for more.
Visit Chocolate Decadence in Eugene at 1050 Bethel Drive. Their chocolate is also sold at various stores around the state. You can also find it at the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Adventure Center. Stop by and try one of Larry’s special “Eugene” bars.