MARCELLUS | Ryan Novak’s life is the type of story that could make a Hollywood movie.
A story that would teach its audience how to succeed as a good person using hard work, know-how, education, drive, family, one’s community and — why not throw in everyone’s favorite — chocolate.
Novak is the owner of Marcellus’ Chocolate Pizza Co. The company expanded its facilities with a new building in a new location, reopening in October after a lengthy process. It was slated to open in August, but that delay put them back a month for holiday orders, Novak said.
But, the company still had a record season.
The new facility is sandwiched between the Ultimate Goal indoor soccer facility and the NAPA Auto Parts store on Lee Mulroy Road between Skaneateles and Marcellus.
“We are very glad we stayed in Marcellus,” Novak said. “The new building is three times the size of the former location in the McClurg building, about 10,000 square feet.”
He had looked at a piece of property by Grace Chapel in Skaneateles on Route 20 that fell through. He thought Route 20 would really add to Chocolate Pizza Co.'s foot traffic. But, it turns out, the final location in the business plaza on Lee Mulroy Road has more than doubled the company's retail walk-in traffic.
He said people warned that leaving the village of Marcellus was going to hurt business, but it has been just the opposite as Route 175 is heavily traveled. Plus, people from all over the state come for tournament play at the Ultimate Goal.
The NAPA store, Wags Pet Center and Marcellus Pizza — the traditional kind — also bring in a lot of diverse, steady traffic of people interested in adding a touch of sweetness to their travels.
Before purchasing Chocolate Pizza Co., Novak knew the operation inside and out because he had worked for its founder, Bonnie Hanyak.
He started washing pots and mopping floors at age 15 then moved up to handle all the different jobs in the organization. He even told her back then that if she ever wanted to retire, he would like to buy the business.
Upon making that dream come true in July 2010, one of Novak’s goals was to expand the brand’s reach. First, he trademarked the name. It is the only chocolate pizza brand on the market. That was another lengthy process but important in growing the business.
The internet has greatly expanded Chocolate Pizza Co.'s reach. The company ships its products to every state and more than 16 different countries around the world. During the holiday season, three full UPS trucks left the back dock each day.
In addition, Chocolate Pizza Co. products are being carried by other retailers, including Hallmark Stores, Bass Pro Shops, CVS Health, Kinney Drugs and Byrne Dairy.
“It’s a lot easier to have other people sell your products,” Novak said.
These relationships took him a lot of time to develop, but once the first orders went out, reorders have come in steadily.
Novak and his wife, Christie, are a team. She is an accountant who helps out with the financial aspects of Chocolate Pizza Co.
They also work with Ryan’s father, Chris, who helps out with operations and Ryan's stepmother, Jeanette, who runs the kitchen. The rest of his employees are like family as well. In all, the chocolate business employs 28 people.
Allison Gooden, a 1985 Marcellus High School graduate, designed Chocolate Pizza Co.'s showroom and helped design new packaging. Besides offering pre-made gift baskets, she added a gift packaging section to the retail floor so people who want to make up their own can wrap and go.
“The best thing we ever did was bring Allison Gooden on board,” Ryan said. “She designed and laid out the new retail space.”
She said people looking for help in fundraising should go to Chocolate Pizza Co.'s website and check out the fundraising program.
“We are open minded and keep coming up with new and better ideas, so we keep evolving,” Gooden said.
Chocolate Pizza Co.'s chocolate source is confidential. All Novak can say is that it comes from Sweden. He said chocolate is graded, and this is the highest grade, as that is what his customers look for and expect. It is then tempered in the company's kitchen and used to make many of the 150 items it offers.
Chocolate Pizza Co. sold 20,000 chocolate pizzas over the holidays. These come in two sizes and are milk or dark chocolate, laced with an English-style toffee made in house. Jeannette has created different decorations depending on the season or the style of pizza.
Another signature product is the wings. These are rippled potato chips slathered with creamy peanut butter encased in chocolate.
A new item to the portfolio is the sparkler. These confections are salted pretzel rods dipped in peanut butter and coated in chocolate then decorated with additional candies depending on the theme. These have been received exceptionally well, selling right up there with the pizza and wings.
Oreos, sponge cake and graham crackers are among the items that are dipped in chocolate and decorated at the chocolate factory.
Besides his responsibilities as a business owner, Novak spends his time on sales calls, jumping on the production line and helping Chocolate Pizza Co.'s shipping manager, Jason Palmowski.
Ryan acknowledged that sometimes at night he unwinds by going back to his early days on the production line. He puts on some country music and makes slices.