Chocolate shop opens in downtown Wauconda

The latest business to open in downtown Wauconda has what you might call a distinctive flavor.

The Puna Chocolate Co., 106 N. Main St., offers chocolate bars, tea and other tasty products made with cacao beans grown in Hawaii.

The store opened about a week ago in space previously occupied by Lakeside Travel Advisors.

"We just really liked the downtown feel," Puna Chocolate co-owner Ben Vanegtern said.

The company is named after the Puna district on the big island of Hawaii. Hawaii is the only U.S. state with a climate that's suitable for growing cacao.

A sister Puna Chocolate Co. store operates in Hilo, Hawaii.

Puna Chocolate gets many of its ingredients from Hawaii, including macadamia nuts and kona coffee beans, Vanegtern said.

"We work with a lot of small farms throughout the big island," he said.

Because all Puna Chocolate products are made in the U.S. with domestic ingredients, Vanegtern said, the company doesn't benefit from African child labor, a problem in the chocolate industry.

The retail side of the business actually launched at farmers markets in Wauconda, Grayslake and Arlington Heights, as well as at events in Hawaii.

The exposure at those outdoor events helped build a buzz for the brick-and-mortar store in Wauconda.

"We're definitely getting a really good following," Vanegtern said.

Puna Chocolate is Main Street's latest gastronomical enterprise. Other recent entries include: Legacy 1878, a meat and cheese shop that opened in January at 107 S. Main St.; and the Green Goat restaurant, which opened in March at 203 S. Main St.

Maria Weisbruch, executive director of the Wauconda Area Chamber of Commerce, said she's "thrilled" about the new business.

"(It's) an exciting addition to the already eclectic feel of Main Street in Wauconda," Weisbruch said. "And the chocolate is amazing."

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  The Puna Chocolate Co. sells chocolate bars, tea and other products made with cacao grown in Hawaii. Paul Valade/
Puna Chocolate co-owner Ben Vanegtern checks on cacao pods in the Puna district on the big island of Hawaii. Courtesy of Ben Vanegtern
  Co-owner Teri Hagerott-Potter shows one of the handmade Puna Chocolate bars at the new Wauconda business. Paul Valade/
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