The sweet smell of success wafted through Industry City on Monday, November 17, as the newly-opened Li-Lac Chocolates factory and retail store welcomed in elected officials, business leaders and local activists to look around the spanking new facility housed in a repurposed industrial building.
As new as the factory is, Li-Lac — now located at 68 35th Street — has deep roots in New York, as the oldest chocolate manufacturer in the city.
Previously headquartered in Manhattan, the “stubbornly old fashioned since 1923” company wanted to stay in the city, with owner Christopher Taylor delighted to discover the amenities of the reimagined warehouse conglomerate near the Sunset Park waterfront, where Li-Lac chocolates are made by hand in a large open space that can be viewed by consumers strolling through, on the way, perhaps, to the chocolatier’s retail store.
“Now customers can actually see [the manufacturing process],” Taylor stressed. “It’s one thing to tell customers that everything is made by hand, but seeing is believing.”
Overall, “It was an amazing package at Industry City,” Taylor enthused, thanks to IC’s commitment to combining manufacturing with retail spaces. “What really sealed the deal,” he added, “is that Industry City is involved with the community. Our philosophy is that we want to be good corporate citizens, part of the neighborhood.”
Li-Lac’s small batch manufacturing fits in perfectly in Industry City, as well. “What’s exciting in New York is that people are making things again,” noted Andrew Kimball, the CEO of Industry City, who has been guiding the six-million-square-foot campus as it reimagines itself in an environment in which small manufacturers and start-up businesses have discovered such areas as Sunset Park which allow them to conduct business while also, as appropriate, inviting the public in.
Li-Lac, he said, was in tune with “our vision to bring innovation and modern manufacturing to Industry City but combining it with retail.” Not only is there a resurgence of manufacturing in the city, he went on, but “There is a new interest on the consumer side in buying things that can be made locally.”
In particular, chocolate manufacturing has been on the upswing in Brooklyn, said Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, stressing that the trend is creating jobs in the borough. “Sunset Park is the place to be,” he added.
The opening of Li-Lac is just the latest in an ongoing series of manufacturing/retail developments in Sunset Park’s vast array of manufacturing and warehouse buildings. The first, noted Wendy Goldstein, president and CEO of Lutheran Medical Center, was Lutheran’s repurposing of an empty factory building as a hospital.
“This is a sweet continuation of our tradition,” she said.