Many family businesses seem like a good idea at the start and then disintegrate together with the relationships. But that hasn’t happened with the Partsioglous. In fact bringing home values to the work place has turned out in their favour. Employees and regular customers are treated like family, and everyone knows each other’s names.
The unspoken trust, honesty and authenticity within Xocolatl has inspired a similar trust among customers of the quality of its products. And that’s how Xocolatl stands out from the competition.
Madelaine points out that when they opened nine years ago there was only a smattering of chocolate shops in Melbourne. Today almost every good suburb has at least one such shop. Xocolatl’s boutique status gives it a clear distinction from most of the others but it’s often compared to a popular Australian chocolate chain.
“I don’t see us at all like that,” Madelaine says. “We’re an artisan product. We don’t use artificial flavouring and preservatives, and although we don’t use organic chocolate, there’s still a whole lot of organic truth and love to our product. The other brand just has market share.”
Xocolatl’s other trump card is the personal touch of artistry on the chocolates and marketing material. Aside from being a chocolatier, Christos is also an artist and his pieces grace the surface of selected chocolates like the orange noir, marshmallow delight, gorgonzola & mango and honey cream. Specialty chocolates provide larger canvases and the packaging of all the chocolate bars carry his painting.
It’s these little nuances that build customers’ affinity for Xocolatl.
The Partsioglou family has come a long way since that little chocolate shop in Canterbury, and everyone is settled into their own niche.
Madelaine is now Xocolatl’s General Manager and as workstations behind the desk as well as behind the counter with Jenny. The only aspect of the business from which she forces herself to maintain a distance is the kitchen, which is Christos and Tina’s domain. But she has enough on her plate to keep her constantly interested.
“I’m a Jack of all Trades!” she says. “I do everything from public relations and human resources to accounting and visual merchandising.”
“I love having so many varied jobs because it breaks up my week. I never know what I’ll be doing when I come into work some days. Nine years on and I’m still finding new challenges for myself.”
I ask Madelaine how long it took before Xocolatl broke even and there’s a long pause. When she finally replies it’s with a touch of astonishment.
“You know what? I don’t even know the answer to that question. I’m going to ask dad. I remember him being surprised at how well everything was going.”
She heads into the kitchen and emerges a short while later followed by Christos who calls across the room, “I don’t think we have broken even!”
He breaks into laughter before adding, “It’s a labour of love. I think that’s the only answer we can give you. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have been here a long time ago.”