The City of Powell welcomed a sweet addition in 2023 when Lohcally Artisan Chocolates opened its doors. Passionate about sharing sourced-at-origin chocolate from around the world with her community, Denise Steele is serving up her hand-painted cocoa confections to not just Columbus locals, but patrons across the U.S. as well.
Previously, Steele led a successful career as a business analyst for thirteen years, working with managers to help their operations succeed. “I always thought I might have a business of my own someday,” recalled Steele, “I didn’t know exactly
what kind of business back then, but I knew I wanted it to be something very community-focused.”
Denise fondly remembered a time when her mother worked in a chocolate shop in the small town of Hartville, Ohio. “She loved working there. They always made people so happy – everyone went there for their gifts, and it was just a really community-oriented business,” said Steele.
After stepping away from the corporate world, spending time volunteering, and sending her children off to college, she decided it was finally time to make her dream of owning her own business a reality. She credits her husband for his enthusiastic encouragement of her idea and, following in her mother’s footsteps, she dove into the chocolate industry.
Denise attended a chocolatier school in late 2018 to learn everything she could about the chocolate world. “I learned everything there is to know about confection-making,
the industry, history, chemistry, and processes,” said Steele. “Going there also connected me with other professionals across the country who were trying to do the same thing and provide high-quality chocolate to their local communities while educating them about the industry.”
With her business savvy and newfound chocolatier skills, Denise founded Lohcally Artisan Chocolates in 2019. Lohcally offers two sizes of truffles, including the larger, multi-layered “duos” and single-filled “solos,” all of which are hand-painted with naturally colored cocoa butter.
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“One fun thing is to hear customer quotes,” said Denise, “We’ve heard a lot of people say that they look like marbles or that they’re too beautiful to eat.”
The caramel cashew with sea salt is Lohcally’s best-selling truffle, which uses a homemade vanilla caramel followed by a layer of sea salt and a crunchy cashew croquant, a sugary nut candy layer resembling a classic peanut brittle.
The signature s’mores is also a huge hit, which is layered with marshmallow cream, caramelized white chocolate ganache and a graham cracker layer. “Anything peanut butter is also always popular in Ohio,” said Steele.
“We originally just wanted to sell to coffee shops, wineries, breweries, and places like that,” said Denise, “It was a good way to get started.” While the new business thrived
with this model in its early days, many of Lohcally’s carriers were hit hard by the pandemic and forced to temporarily close their doors.
A natural businesswoman, Denise quickly adapted to the unique circumstances of late 2020, revamping the online store and leaning into other methods of reaching customers. “We started doing pop-ups, mostly at the North Market downtown. They gave us a ton of pop-up space because we were some of the few people who wanted to do it during that time,” said Steele.
Lohcally quickly gained popularity with local patrons, who not only looked forward to getting their hands on these specialty confections every week, but began shipping the sweets to friends and relatives across the U.S. With a growing fanbase and high demand, Denise decided it was time to find a permanent home for Lohcally.
After searching high and low, she stumbled upon a unique, charming space in the City of Powell that was impossible to pass up. “We found this cute little older building in Powell that really fit our vision of having a community space. It was quaint
and had an atmosphere that we knew would draw people in,” explained Steele.
The shop officially opened its doors in February 2023 and has since become an integral part of the local community. “Wherever we can find a local partner that’s producing here in Columbus, we love to do that,” said Denise.
“Annie’s Wine Cottage across the street has carried our products for years, and we’re in talks with Nocterra about a partnership for some chocolate and beer pairing events
with them,” said Steele. Lohcally engages local partnerships whenever possible, using Watershed Distillery’s bourbon in their maple bourbon truffle and Hemmick Farm and Brewery’s oat stout for their oat stout caramel.
On top of their year-round staple selection of truffles, Lohcally offers a wide variety of seasonal flavors. A special Valentine’s Day merlot truffle is a seasonal favorite, and the blackberry basil truffle is a summer hit. “Sometimes I even grow the basil myself,” said Denise, “We try to use locally grown ingredients as often as possible.”
Denise’s care for local communities extends beyond Columbus. “One thing we have learned from going through the education process is the history and evolution of chocolate,” said Steele, “It comes from the cacao bean which only grows
20 degrees north and south of the equator, normally from very small countries.”
According to Steele, cacao beans are often shipped to the U.S. or Europe for mass chocolate production, causing cacao farmers from these small countries to lose out on the financial benefits of manufacturing chocolate locally. “We value the sourced at origin story of the chocolate world,” Steele said, “We are currently purchasing from a manufacturer in Columbia that employs around 3,000 local families who are harvesting and processing the cacao beans. It makes for a better bean for them to work with since it’s fresher, and it turns more profits for those families as well.”
Not only does this practice benefit cacao farmers, but it allows Lohcally to serve the highest-quality chocolate to its customers.
“The Columbian company we purchase from is considered to have the top 8% of beans
in the world which is an exclusive grouping called ‘Fino de Aroma,’ meaning fine flavored chocolate,” said Steele. “We feel like we are offering some of the finest quality chocolate in the world.”
But Denise doesn’t stop there when it comes to giving her customers the best. Lohcally offers chocolate tastings every month or so, allowing customers the chance to try samples of the best chocolate from all around the world.
“Columbia cacao beans are grown near coffee, while some from Nicaragua are grown
near bananas, and the chocolate will take on those flavors,” said Steele, “We love to educate people about the chocolate industry and history – you’re tasting your way through around 8-10 samples from Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and are picking up those different flavor nuances from different countries.”
Lohcally Artisan Chocolates continues to impress customers with beautiful chocolate confections, going above and beyond to bring the very best to our local Columbus communities.
Visit Lohcally Artisan Chocolates at 77 W. Olentangy St. in Powell, OH, or check out their website, lohcally.com.
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