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Mike Terry, for the Deseret Morning News
Store co-owner Katie Masterson-Hatch helps customer Marie Bambo at Hatch Family Chocolates.

For Steve Hatch coming to work each day is a sweet experience.

The Avenues resident is a co-confectioner of Hatch Family Chocolates, 390 E. Fourth Avenue, along with his wife, Katie Masterson, and father, Jerry Hatch.

Every day the three put together the ingredients that will become the day's chocolates. Each chocolate is hand-dipped, which is one of the things that distinguishes the business, Steve Hatch said.

While hand-dipping makes the chocolates more original, it also makes the process slower, and it's difficult to keep up.

"The biggest challenge is (to have) hand-dipped chocolates. We roll all the centers out by hand and dip them by hand," Hatch said, noting that most chocolate shops use what's called an enrobing machine, which is basically a big conveyer belt that sends the chocolates through the machine to be dipped. In the time it takes the Hatches to make a few hundred candies, other chocolate places could make a few thousand.

"Our biggest obstacle is we can't keep them in stock. We sell it as fast as we make it," he said. "It's kind of a Catch 22 situation — if we did have everything in stock all the time it would mean things were sitting on the shelf in surplus."

Going into the chocolate business wasn't something Steve Hatch ever pictured himself doing. However, as the store has its third anniversary this month, he classifies it as a "sweet job," which constantly evolves.

The store was founded by Hatch's father and Masterson. Jerry Hatch learned to make chocolates from his mother who worked in different candy factories dipping chocolates during the Depression, as they were one of the places that would hire women. When growing up, Steve's father would always make chocolates for holidays, he said.

After Jerry Hatch retired, he and his wife separated, and he was bored. He started making chocolates to sell at boutiques around the valley about 15 years ago. Masterson, who is originally from Chicago, moved to Utah five years ago to be with Steve after they met at a convention. She spent a number of years training as a pastry chef, and her family was in the restaurant business in Chicago. She picked up some seasonal work after moving to Utah but hadn't found anything permanent.

Jerry Hatch asked Masterson if she wanted to come learn the chocolate business and work with him.

Masterson said her favorite thing about the business is watching a batch of ingredients turn into a beautiful creation.

"(I love seeing) when it goes from being 10 different ingredients and turns into a batch of caramel after we mix all the ingredients," she said. "I love the finished product when it's dipped in chocolate. The whole process is amazing. . . . , especially when you bite into it and it has a thick layer of chocolate."

Each day brings its own set of challenges to overcome, such as having good business sense, dealing with different situations that arise, keeping motivated and knowing the limits, Masterson said. The biggest challenge, however, has been keeping up with the demand that keeps increasing.

Masterson and Hatch have some unique challenges in that they are little people, or dwarfs, and sometimes people think they won't be able to do everything an ordinary person could, but this isn't so.

"I'm OK with myself and who I am. This is a part of me," Masterson said. "For me this is not a challenge. Outside perception is where it becomes a challenge. . . . Everyone needs to take what they have and make it work better."

Hatch said being short just means that they have stools all over the place that other employees might trip over. Being smaller and running a business doesn't have any more challenges than day-to-day activities such as going to an ATM, as he can't reach there, either.

Sometimes people do come into the store specifically to see the Hatches because of their size, but Hatch says it's the product that keeps them coming back.

Both Hatch and Masterson said one of the best things about the business has been the neighborhood where it's located. Residents in the Avenues have been very supportive. Some people have specifically gone out to get a food handler's permit so they would have the necessary training to help, Hatch said.

"I think we've been very fortunate. The neighborhood up here is amazing," he said. "We started as a customer-business relationship and now we have hundreds of friends. I think that's been one of the greatest things — just how amazing the neighborhood is and how supportive."

For Halloween, the Hatches rented a fog machine to create mood, but it completely bombed because everyone thought there was a fire, so they were more concerned about that than it being foggy. Neighbors and friends have offered to do anything from shovel the walks on snowy days to jumping in on especially busy days.

Being from Chicago, Masterson is accustomed to a great deal of diversity. She loves that the Avenues has a little bit of everything including students, doctors, people struggling, regular families, etc. The house across the street from the shop is a multiple family dwelling that has three or four families in it.

"It's a wonderful neighborhood and is very giving," she said. "A lot of people here are open to small businesses and supporting local businesses."

Her husband agrees. "The greatest place in the state is the Avenues," Hatch said.

Hatch Family Chocolates is open every day from Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Besides chocolates they also offer ice cream, coffee and espresso and various desserts. Eventually they would like to expand to become more of a dessert bar with additional desserts, but for now they plan to stay with chocolates.

Hatch said that Salt Lake City is very fortunate as there are many chocolate shops, but he hopes people can enjoy their store for its uniqueness.

"The biggest question is, 'What sets us apart?' which would be taste and quality," he said. "We hope people can enjoy our chocolates and what sets us apart — hand-dipping. We do try to do a quality product, but what sets apart it apart is the taste."


E-mail: twalquist@desnews.com