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Success and an Evolving Local Business

It seems like Leanne Cordisco's candy enterprise has blossomed overnight, but it took a lot of hard, smart work to get this far. We met Leanne when she was a part-time entrepreneur (with a different full-time job!) tinkering and experimenting with toffee recipes, just starting to create her masterpieces. To say the least, the last few years have been quite a journey.

Christine's Gourmet Toffee
Leanne founded the company Popular Snacks, Inc. in 2009 with PDQ owner Sam Jacobsen. She was a biomedical engineer in business school at the time, and was introduced to Jacobson, who was looking for aspiring entrepreneurs who needed help getting off the ground. This partnership went beyond funding; Jacobson was a business mentor and a friend, and Christine's Gourmet Toffee is named after his mother.

With a scientist's attention to detail and a Sicilian's passion for flavor, Leanne perfected her toffee. It was important that the quality of the ingredients meet her standards, so she uses Belgian chocolate, French sea salt, and a lot of Grade AA butter from Shullsburg, WI at the core of all her toffee recipes. One variety includes Usinger's Bacon, and has gained popularity ever since its inclusion in the 2011 Emmy swag bags. Christine's Gourmet Toffee can now be found in a variety of local specialty shops, including Fromagination, Steve's Liquor, Metcalfe's Market, and Willy Street Co-op.

Chocolaterian Café
In October of last year, Leanne and her business partner Kimberly opened a retail location to sell her toffee and much more. The Chocolaterian Café is part candy store and part specialty cafe, a place for culinary discovery, both sweet and savory. Leanne offers a variety of desserts in addition to light lunch fare, coffee, and wine. The store's location in the eclectic Atwood neighborhood has brought Leanne together with other local businesses: she also offers Gail Ambrosius chocolate truffles, Underground Meat chartucerie, and a selection of local cheeses.

In a short time, the Chocolaterian Café has become a Madison foodie hot spot, which is a terrific thing to be. All of the reviews have been glowing, and some signature items, like the Parisian hot chocolate and the Ugly Cookies (as jamgd's Jennifer Weitzman can attest to), have gained quite a following.

At jamgd, we are overjoyed, and not at all surprised, by Leanne's success. We've been hooked on her treats since the beginning, when we were developing packaging for her Christine's Gourmet Toffee. The product offered unique challenges in package design, as it was somewhat fragile, but beautiful, demanding to be seen. The toffee needed to be visible, yet also have a graphic presence on store shelves.

We were excited at the prospect of the new venture into retail, and worked with Leanne to brand Chocolaterian to reflect her vision. It needed to be upscale, but also inviting, with the feel of a small, European-style sweet shop. jamgd designed the logo and store signage, and even helped pick out paint colors for the interior. This is a special place, where you walk in the doors knowing that you're about to treat yourself. We never had a doubt that the Chocolaterian would be a hit, and we're looking forward to what the future might bring.

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