The newly-expanded Pike Place MarketFront has a new tenant: indi chocolate, purveyors of everything from chocolate bars to orange-chocolate scented lotion to spice rubs to chocolate liquor infusion kits to chocolate mixology classes, and much more.
Indi is a family business: both of founder Erin Andrews’ daughters work at the store, facilitating classes and helping customers. Her husband helps make chocolate in the adjacent small factory, visible to customers through a glass wall. The business itself is named after Andrews’ eldest daughter.
Inspired by a family trip, Andrews first began dabbling in the chocolate business by working directly with farmers in Belize. After traveling back and forth to Belize for two years, she started indi chocolate as a way of bringing her business closer to home. “indi chocolate was started in my kitchen where I made cocoa butter-based lotions and lip balms. I started selling at fairs and festivals to be able to afford the equipment to make chocolate,” she explains.
Indi was able to expand to a small retail space at Pike Place Market, where the business was housed for five years. The family produced their chocolate and other products to sell at home, in a commercial kitchen space attached to their house. Siena, Andrews’ youngest daughter who gave us a tour around the shop, seemed relieved at no longer having to do business in such a small shop with her mother and older sister.
The process of expanding into the new, significantly larger factory and retail space was “difficult and stressful,” but worth it, Andrews says. Along the way, she worked with one of the Office of Economic Development’s consultants, who provide free consulting for local small businesses. “One of the great surprises of working with the Office of Economic Development has been how fantastic the free one-on-one marketing consulting has been,” Andrews says. “Working with Lisa Gardner has really helped us up our marketing game and been a valuable resource for growing indi chocolate.”
Now that the business is settled into their new factory, Andrews is looking to expand even further, drawing on the fresh produce and products available daily from fellow Pike Place vendors. “Increasing the amount of local agriculture and dairy has been a long-term goal for indi chocolate, and this will allow us to make fresh and zero shelf-life creations that need to be eaten immediately to be enjoyed at their best,” she says. Indi is also looking to host more classes, events and tours as they head into the summer tourism season, and they hope to focus on wholesaling their products as well.
While Pike Place is known to host crowds of tourists in the summer, it’s home to a strong community of farmers, artists, chefs and other vendors throughout the year. “From the outside, many people don’t realize the importance and strength of the Market community,” Andrews says. “I love personally knowing our regulars. I’m often at the same table doing work alongside them or popping up to help when we have a line of customers.”
Next time you’re at the Market, drop by indi for the chance of a free sample of molten, cacao-of-the-day chocolate from one of their machines. Siena tells us that they make the world’s best hot chocolate, and her mother particularly recommends their take on s’mores: “We’ve worked hard to make a s’more I adore with an oat cake instead of graham crackers, our chocolate and our mole spice rub marshmallow freshly roasted for each guest. We’ve been hearing from our customers that it is the best s’more they’ve ever had too.” You can also order online, if you can’t wait to visit in person. (No fresh s’mores online though.)