A piece of the community, hand-dipped in chocolate

By MARISA MATA, Student Writer

Video by Daniel Teran

A week after Rob Taylor (1985) bought Stafford’s Chocolates in Porterville, a man with sad eyes approached the shop’s counter. “He said, ‘this is the first year my daughter’s been away from home. She joined the military and is in Germany. She called and said, Dad, I just want one thing — will you go down to Stafford’s and send a box of chocolate to me? I just want a taste of home.’ That exchange made me realize how important this little chocolate shop is to our community,” Taylor recounted.

Photos courtesy of Stafford’s Instagram

Stafford’s Chocolates began with the arrival of a mysterious 90-year-old European chocolatier who befriended Larry Stafford and taught him his secret recipes. Stafford obsessed — turning every room of his home into a place of experimentation, where he combined different flavors and techniques.

When Stafford opened the shop in 1987, the families of Porterville fell in love with his creations, and Stafford’s Chocolates became a tradition for them.

Wanting to uphold a piece of the community and intrigued by the 100-year-old method of handcrafting chocolate, Taylor and his family bought the business in 2012, after Stafford passed away. They haven’t changed a thing about the chocolate-making process, continuing to handcraft each piece of candy and use fresh, local ingredients from around the Valley.

“Being in Porterville, we’re lucky to be surrounded by a lot of fresh fruits and nuts and milk and butter and cream, unlike so many other places. We use lemons and oranges that’ve come right off the tree. Our milk comes from Rosa Brothers in Tulare.”

“With our local ingredients and hand-dipping techniques, we have quite a unique business here.”

Stafford’s Chocolates moved to Downtown Porterville in 2016 to be part of the area’s revitalization, and expanded in the process — now offering beverages, windows for customers to watch chocolates being made and a bigger space for them to sit and socialize, which is part of what makes Stafford’s Chocolates so unique.

Taylor walks throughout the shop, greeting customers by name, striking up conversations with everyone he passes. There are regulars — a father and daughter who visit every Saturday, a group of runners who meet at Stafford’s after their trail. There are people visiting from out of town — some grew up in Porterville, others are from as far as Europe, setting foot in the shop for the first time.

“This goes way beyond making a dollar, it’s about social responsibility, loving the community we’re in and especially loving our customers and those that support us.”

Taylor, his wife, children, sister and father all play a role in the business, and focus on “helping to support and challenge each other to become better, personally and professionally.”

Since taking over the business in 2012, they’ve not only expanded in Porterville, but also along the coast, opening a shop in Los Olivos. They also ship their chocolates around the world.

“It’s an important part of our community. It’s a part of our culture, our traditions. We feel we have a lot of responsibility to our community, to keep growing Stafford’s.”

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