A few weeks ago, we made the trek out to the Somerville Winter Market. It was Saturday, we were moving slowly (Steph may or may not have fallen into the slush in the Commons), so despite our best efforts we missed the hours when the market was in full swing. As we arrived, the dozens of winter farm vendors were packing up (insert sigh here), but fortunately for us Russ from Apotheker’s was still around, and with a giant thermos of hot cocoa, no less.
Russ and his wife, Shari, have built Apotheker’s from the ground up at warp speed. Although only in operation for 18 months, their bars and marshmallows are in some of the best gift and food shops around the city. They started off wholesale only, but they now make appearances at farmer’s markets to get to know their customer base and try out new product ideas. This week, it was a rich hot cocoa made from leftover chocolate, topped with a melting marshmallow. This was the kind of hot chocolate that makes a slippery walk and wet, cold socks worthwhile.
Like the other local makers we have profiled, Apotheker’s was born out of an interesting experiement. When Russ & Shari tried the Whole30 in 2013, the pair started to experiment with dessert recipes to satisfy a sweet tooth without succumbing to processed temptations. When they realized their talent, they were able to combine Russ’ kitchen skills and graphic design training with Shari’s sculpting skills to create Apotheker’s.
In just a few minutes with Russ, we got the full scoop on their recipe, and how much pride they take in sourcing the highest quality ingredients. They view themselves as a honey company, and that perspective is demonstrated in how they source. They work with a third generation bee keeper in Florida for their Tupelo honey, which is an ingredient in the chocolate, and with a fifth generation bee keeper in Colorado for the honey that is incorporated into the mallows. Russ explained that because the leave the honey in the chocolate raw, they go for an even higher quality variety than what goes into the mallows. Impressed? We were.
When we asked Russ for wise words about how he and his wife got this business not just off the ground, but booming, he explained that getting your foot in the door can be the hardest part. They had a product they believed in, but getting people to trust you and carry your products can be an uphill battle. Fortunately, they had some early supporters, including Sofi of Olives & Grace, ultimate champion of makers around Boston. He told us that the effect snowballs – once you can point to a few stores where you’re product is flying off the shelves, more and more shopkeepers will take you in. For Apotheker’s, this has led to being carried in stores from Somerville to California.
As we parted ways, Russ was kind enough to offer some of their triple pepper chocolate – he recommended: using it for spicy hot chocolate, adding it to mole sauce, or… drum roll please… plopping a few squares into a pot of chili. Don’t mind if we do.
Your friends at Howlin’ Lamb