Made in Arizona: Zak's Chocolate started as hobby, now booming business

A valley company is making a product that just about everybody loves - chocolate.

"It's a story you hear a lot. People say, 'Oh this is great. You should be doing this,' and whether they were being nice to us or not, we didn't really know. But that led us to maybe have just enough confidence to take the risk and open up a store," said Jim Elitzak.

Elitzak and his wife, Maureen, used to work in corporate finance. But now they own a business based in Scottsdale called Zak's Chocolate.

As you may have guessed, it started as a hobby.

"Maureen always took on the hobbies that required ridiculous attention to detail and fine motor skills and patience and a lot of the qualities she has that I don't," Jim said. "I was always like the home chocolate tester. It was a holiday thing. Making things for friends and family."

That was about ten years ago. Fast forward to now, and they're both self-taught chocolatiers and chocolate makers.

"We take beans. We roast them. We grind them and do some other things to turn the raw cocoa bean ingredient into finished chocolate," Jim said. "We press our own butter and create cocoa powder. It's kind of like if you had a distillery and a mixologist all in one."

Much like their talent, the chocolate is one of a kind; it's fresh and imported from all over.

"We sample chocolate from all over. We import from all over the world. The chocolate that's in here right now is our Guatemala Lachua," Maureen said.

The flavors are endless, and they often use local ingredients while partnering with other local businesses.

"Combinations like raspberry and chocolate, which are classic, and we do an orange and chocolate. We do our mocha so coffee and chocolate, which are all awesome and very popular. We also make a truffle with the honey so the reason we work with the local beekeeper is so we can use her honey as an ingredient," Jim said. "We also have strawberry puree and locally-forged roasted barreled cactus seeds which give it a poppy seed-like crunch and flavor so a really cool unusual piece for the adventurous soul."

"A lot of times people come in and say, 'What's the most popular?' and it's a question neither of us will answer. We're like, 'What do you like? Is it fruity? Or creamy chocolate?' There's so many different things," Maureen said.

What started as a hobby at home has transformed into a thriving business five years strong. Now, their uniquely crafted chocolates are shipped across the country and taken as gifts from visitors around the world.

"We want you to taste our chocolate. We're really proud of it. We made it from beans ourselves, but we want you to taste what's inside," Jim said.