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Chocolate Fountain - Grand Island Independent 8/25/2005


The Sweet Smell of Success
G.I. business ships chocolate fountains around world
By Sarah Schulz

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Hollie Fitch (left) holds up her son Talon Fitch, 3, to allow him to get his pretzel coated with flowing chocolate in a ChocoFountain at Roses for You, a sister business of ChocoFountain Inc. in Grand Island. While other members of Fitch9s family developed and offer the ChocoFountain for rent across the nation and/or for sale internationally, Fitch mainly helps out at the Roses for You business.
Independent/Barrett Stinson

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  • ChocoFountain Inc. Vice President Gene Rosenburg stands with a base bowl and two tiers from a ChocoFountain at the company9s manufacturing location in Grand Island.
    Independent/Barrett Stinson

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  • The ChocoFountain comes in a variety of sizes, and is available for sale or rent.
    Independent/Barrett Stinson

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    Waves of luscious dark chocolate cascade over stainless steel tiers, tempting people to coat fruit, cookies, pretzels and more in melted sweetness.

    The running chocolate makes the room smell like a candy store, and people seem giddy just watching the melted chips flow.

    The fun is for rent or purchase from Choco Fountain Inc., a sister business of Roses for You!

    "People really enjoy this," said Andy Znamenacek, president of Choco Fountain Inc.

    Znamenacek and Gene Rosenburg, Choco Fountain vice president, are also business partners with Roses for You!, which has been in Grand Island for about 15 years.

    What started out as a side venture for the flower shop/wedding rental store has grown into an international business.

    About five years ago, Rosenburg purchased a chocolate fountain to rent out as part of his flower company's wedding business.

    "It was a hit," he said. "The interest quickly grew tenfold."

    As a result, the men realized that the three units they owned had flaws.

    "Coating the food was the fun part," Rosenburg said. "We learned early on that the fun ended when it came time to clean the chocolate fountain."

    The base bowl, which held the melted chocolate as it was pulled through the fountain by an auger, couldn't be removed from the motorized and heated base. As a result, the bowl had to be cleaned by hand and couldn't get sanitized to restaurant standards. In addition, spaces in the auger had to be cleaned out using a toothpick, he said.

    "We knew we needed something better," he said. "That was too much work."

    The men wanted a unit that was easy to clean and assemble. There was only one chocolate fountain manufacturer in the United States -- in Alabama -- and the others were overseas. So, to get what they wanted, the men decided to build their own chocolate fountains.

    Their design has a removable bowl, can be assembled without tools, and, because it's made of stainless steel, all the parts are dishwasher safe. In addition, the augers are welded together as one piece, so toothpick cleaning is no longer needed, Rosenburg said.

    The units are made in Grand Island, Nebraska, and the majority of the materials are purchased from Nebraska companies, Znamenacek said.

    Thus Choco Fountain Inc. was born. Just fewer than 100 units have been made to rent and sell. In the last 30 days, chocolate fountains have been sold in the United States, China, the Republic of Georgia, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom, Rosenburg said. Just this week, about 10 units have been shipped in customized boxes, Znamenacek said.

    "We go by supply and demand," he said. "We fill the orders as they come. The Internet site has really boosted our sales."

    The units have been available for rental for three and a half years and have been marketed to the public to buy for about a year, he said.

    The company also has two of the larger units -- they come in 30-inch, 40-inch and 48-inch models -- at the Ameristar Casino's buffet in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Znamenacek said.

    Rosenburg said some units were recently sold to a cruise line, and six of Choco Fountain's units were at the Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., in January. They also provided fountains for a Los Angeles Lakers appreciation dinner.

    "That was a $1,000-a-plate dinner," Rosenburg said. "We didn't eat."

    They also took a unit last week to a casino trade show in Las Vegas, where it was popular with casino managers who want something different to bring in customers, Znamenacek said.

    For the most part, the men and their employees accompany rented chocolate fountains within the state. Otherwise, the units are shipped to the location via UPS, he said.

    The fountains have been used at wedding receptions, business lunches, bridal and baby showers, rehearsal dinners and holiday and tailgate parties. The men use Ghirardelli chocolate in dark, milk and white varieties. The white chocolate can also be dyed a variety of colors, to match a wedding party for example, Znamenacek said.

    Caramel, cheese, barbecue sauce and salad dressing can also be used in the fountains as an alternative to chocolate, he said.

    The average rental cost for a unit is $399, including an attendant who does setup and takedown, and 15 pounds of chocolate. Dipping items must be provided by the customer, he said. The 40-inch fountain can feed 200 to 250 people, and the price for purchasing a unit starts at $3,999, Znamenacek said.

    "People love them," Rosenburg said. "We've had brides and grooms use them instead of a wedding cake."

    Roses for You! and the ChocoFountain Inc.
    319 S. Locust St.
    Grand Island, Nebraska 68801
    1-877-882-4050 Toll Free
    308-382-4050

    www.chocofountain.com
    www.chocofountains.com
    www.rosesforyou.com

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