RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
ABOVE: Jim McCann. seen here pouring
chocolate into an animal mold. and his wife, Barb, own
The Chocolate Vault in Tecumseh. He said
creating art with chocolate is tricky business.
Chocolate must at 98.6 degrees to be poured into the
variety of shapes available at the store.
TECUMSEH - It takes a patient person to work with
Jim McCann and his wife, Barb, own The Chocolate
Vault in Tecumseh, and he said in his 20 years he has
learned being patient in letting the chocolate melt
slowly is key to getting the best flavor and
"You have to have patience to not hurry the
melting of the chocolate and breaking it down,"
McCann said chocolate has a melting point below
body temperature, 98.6 F - The Chocolate Vault's
melting temperature is a trade secret. Their melting
machines have sensors in them that alternate turning
on heaters and fans to keep the melted chocolate
within one degree of its proper temperature.
If the chocolate gets too hot, its composition
begins to break down, McCann, making it less desirable
for the chocolatier and the consumer. If its too cool,
it's harder to work with.
"The homebody has a harder time because you
just have a double-boiler and a thermometer. That's
why the compound coatings are good for the home. You
don't have to be so critical with the
temperature," he said.
There is no formal training to become a chocolatier,
McCann said. He and his wife got into the business
after selling chocolate-making equipment and deciding
to start making their own candies. He said candy
makers learn from other candy makers and trial and
"There is no candy school, no Sweet
University," he said. "It's kind of
internal, learning from each other instead of a formal
The Chocolate Vault receives its chocolate in
10-pound blocks, which they break up to put in the
melting machines. The machines are basically a
stainless-steel melting bowl with a partition to keep
the solid chocolate from the liquid chocolate. The
bowl is rotated and is alternately heated and cooled.
McCann said they'll go through about 100 pounds of
chocolate a day.
They don't tinker with the chocolate to get
different flavors, McCann said.
"The day is short enough as it is," he
Milk chocolate is the most popular flavor, he said.
They also have dark and white chocolate, and they add
green coloring to the white chocolate for the store's
signature Croakers - little frogs made of molded
chocolate filled with pecans and caramel.
The truffles at the store are all made from scratch
at the store, McCann said, but the centers - such as
nuts and coconut - for the dipped chocolates are from
a supplier. Those aren't what keep the store busy.
Most of The Chocolate Vault's business is leaning
towards molded chocolate, McCann said. He credited
that to the store's Web site, www.chocolatevault.com.
"Our sales in molded chocolates have just
skyrocketed," he said.
The Chocolate Vault probably has a skyrocket mold,
but if not, they can get one. McCann said they have
been asked to do all sorts of custom molds. Those
orders take about a month to fill, depending on the
complication of the mold.
At the chocolatiers' disposal are molds for various
professions such as doctors, nurses, lawyers,
construction workers and police officers. The police
molds are a night stick, radio, badge and handcuffs.
They have different animals and objects available,
For holidays, The Chocolate Vault can bring out the
big molds. They have a Santa Claus mold that yields a
5-pound hunk of Christmas chocolate. That is nowhere
near their largest mold, though. Maybe next Easter
someone will want to take home a 4-foot Easter bunny,
and it's no hollow hare. It's a whole hare. McCann
estimates it will take 40 pounds of chocolate to fill,
but he isn't sure how much because they just bought
"A candy store went out of business, and we
acquired a lot of their molds," he said.
McCann said the molds can be personalized by adding
lettering to a molded chocolate piece just like a
baker would decorate a cake, except they use chocolate
instead of icing.
There aren't any chocoholics who work at The
Chocolate Vault, McCann said.
"Everybody who works here likes the chocolate,
but we don't just dive into it," he said.
However, he has had people come in and say they
just need some chocolate to satisfy a craving.
McCann said the employees probably are satisfied by
the aroma of chocolate in the air at the store, but he
understands how some people have to have some
chocolate every day.
"We're here to satisfy that need," he