Robyn Dochterman loves a challenge. As a journalist, she spent her days chasing stories, managing content, and editing articles as a journalist and web editor for the Star Tribune, and then later as editor of a newspaper called Equal Time.The hours were long, but she found the work to be exciting, diverse, and rewarding.
Then came the Great Recession of 2008. On one hand, the difficult financial times took a serious toll on journalism, costing Robyn her job. On the other hand, she was able to buy a commercial kitchen at a rock bottom price and leverage her savings to launch a business.
Soon after, St. Croix Chocolate Company was born. And many of the talents that made Robyn a successful journalist have helped her thrive as a chocolatier. For example, she creates her award-winning chocolates with an equal dose of science and art. And her eye for detail ensures that each confection is as visually stunning as it is delicious.
If you’re wondering what it’s like operating a chocolate shop in a small Minnesota town, here’s a glimpse: Robyn wakes up around 9 a.m. to the sound of birds outside her window. Her commute to the shop is a short one, so she usually watches for deer instead of listening to music. Once Robyn arrives, it’s another day making truffles, filling orders, and helping local customers with her partner Deidre.
The pair have used crowdfunding sites to cover multiple expansions since starting St. Croix – and the result has been steady year-over-year growth.
Now, Robyn and Deidre find themselves gearing up for the ultimate challenge: Holiday Alley.
“The holiday season for chocolate begins in fall and goes through Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter,” explains Robyn. “We call it ‘Holiday Alley,’ and we love it – not only because cash flow is healthy, but because I get to be creative and offer customers unique chocolate items they can’t get anywhere else.”
To meet the demand, Robyn and Deidre have hired a new employee and extended St. Croix’s hours. They’re looking forward to another bustling holiday season, one that could easily surpass the intensity of a busy newsroom.
“Although there are virtually no days off until Easter, we embrace the challenge with big grins,” says Robyn. She admits that she and Deidre reach a point of exhaustion toward the end of December, but they still manage to put the utmost care into their chocolates and offer each customer a warm greeting.
This customer-first attitude has helped St. Croix build a loyal following. Whether it’s the staff pulling all-nighters to get orders out on time, or Robyn and Deidre taking the extra time to wrap a package just how a customer prefers, the shopping experience is different here. And that’s the point.
“You buy a TV one way, but shop for chocolate another way,” says Robyn. “Christmas is an emotional, personal, and nostalgic holiday, so we offer a personal and charming shopping experience to customers.”