Manhattan’s oldest chocolate factory created by a Greek
Li-Lac Chocolates, Manhattan’s Oldest Chocolate Factorywas founded by the Greek George Demetrious.
Li-Lac’s story begins in 1923, when Demetrious, a native Greek who studied the art of chocolate making in France, emigrated to New York and opened his shop in the heart of Greenwich Village.
In the 1920s, Greenwich Village was a destination for artists, intellectuals and innovators. It was in this context that Demetrious applied his chocolate-making expertise, creating and perfecting his recipes for items like Almond Bark and Hazelnut Truffle Squares, gradually building a loyal following among his neighbors. .
Li-Lac, an artisan chocolate shop specializing in small batches of handmade chocolate and gifts, quickly became a New York favorite over the next nine decades.
Its chocolates are made using Demetrious’ original recipes, cooking techniques and ingredients. And, with over 120 items, the chocolate selection is one of the largest selections of gourmet fresh chocolate in the United States.
Manhattan’s oldest chocolate factory has stayed true to its roots despite industry changes
When trendy ingredients and mass production became the model for the modern chocolatier, Li-Lac stayed true to its history and tradition, avoiding automation and trend. Deemed “stubbornly old-fashioned” by the the wall street journalLi-Lac is one of the few old-fashioned chocolate companies to have survived into the modern age.
Demetrious used large marble tables and copper kettles to perfect his signature recipes. He employed a team of divers and packers who brought their own specialized care and attention to detail still found in every Li-Lac box made today.
Passing the baton to Marguerite Watt
In 1972, Demetrious died.
He entrusted his recipes and business to Marguerite Watt, his dedicated employee for 25 years, who continued Demetrious’ high standards of chocolate making until his retirement.
“Edward Bond” butter crunch, Watt often said, “is the quintessential Southern gentleman.” And, repeatedly, she told him she wouldn’t sell the business to just anyone. “Anyone who comes here after me will ensure that quality, care and commitment always count.”
Bond, originally from Mississippi, was a regular customer who bought desserts from Li-Lac for his catering business. Whenever he visited the store, he allowed other customers to be served first so he could stay and visit Watt. Over the years they became good friends and she was convinced that Bond was the perfect person to carry on Li-Lac.
In 1978 Watt sold the business to Bond.
Business expansion, new items
While maintaining the tradition of the company, Bond expanded the business and introduced a few items of his own. He also acquired a large selection of chocolate molds and designed Li-Lac’s first signature floral gift box packaging.
In 1981 Bond’s sister Martha joined him in the chocolate making business. For Martha, “it was love at first sight!” She quickly learned the old master’s recipes, perfected his techniques, attended to customers and helped Ed with day-to-day operations.
Together, Martha and Bond developed new recipes – notably the specialty truffles, which are still a top-selling item today. Martha’s efforts were recognized in 1996, when her recipe won the “Best Raspberry Truffle in the Tri-State” award.
In 1990 Bond died.
Under new management, second location opens
Martha Bond inherited the stewardship of Li-Lac Chocolates, nurturing the business and maintaining the same concern for product quality as Demetrious, Marguerite and Ed.
In 1999, it opened a second location in Grand Central Market, bringing Li-Lac to the busiest train station in the world. When rent became too high in 2005 to continue at the Christopher St. site, the store was forced to move a few blocks north, while the production facility moved to Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
In 2009, Martha retired to Mississippi to be with her beloved grandchildren.
Continuing the legacy
Today, Li-Lac is in the care of three local New York residents: Anthony Cirone, Anwar Khoder and Christopher Taylor.
Cirone is a West Village resident who started shopping at Li-Lac when he first moved to New York in the early 90s. He loved chocolates so much, that in 2011 he bought the company, with his two associates. Khoder started working at Li-Lac in 1989 and is now the company’s Master Chocolatier. Taylor has a background in finance and works behind the scenes to nurture and grow the business.
Together, this trio represents the next generation of Li-Lac owners. And, like their predecessors before them, they are committed to maintaining the old-fashioned chocolate-making processes that make Li-Lac so special and unique.
Rapid expansion, new stores and factory
In 2014, Lil-Lac built a new chocolate factory in Industry City, Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Here, customers can peer through oversized windows and see chocolate making in action.
Lil-Lac opened a sixth store in Hudson Yards in 2019.