Mike Ritz was concerned about Central Falls. The smallest city in the smallest state has been in receivership for almost two years and filed for bankruptcy last August. Ritz was trying to come up with a fundraiser for the economically depressed city when he came upon chocolate.
Turns out, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Central Falls was the regional center for chocolate manufacturing and was colloquially known as “Chocolateville.” Ritz knew that one of the country’s best chocolatiers, Andrew Shotts, had set up his Garrison Confections factory in Central Falls a few years ago so Ritz contacted Shotts to see about creating the Save Chocolateville dark chocolate bar.
Initially Ritz was using the bar to raise awareness, handing them out while dressed in a Willy Wonka-esque outfit, but as the project took shape it was quickly apparent that the 3.5 oz. high-quality dark chocolate bar could be sold to the public to raise funds. Bonnie Frechette, Marketing Team Leader at Whole Foods Market University Heights said she saw Ritz’s Willy Wonka photos posted online and “thought it would be a great idea to sell the bar to raise money.”
Part of Frechette’s mission at Whole Foods Market is to support the community. She said, “We found a way to make it work in a short time frame because we were going into the biggest chocolate holiday of the year [Valentine’s Day].” The bar is being sold as a complete donation—100% of the proceeds collected by Whole Foods Market will be going to Save Chocolateville to go to children in need in Central Falls.
The bars will be on sale beginning Tuesday, February 7. Frechette said she was interested “to see what the community reaction is. If it goes well perhaps that gives Mike & Drew the opportunity to make it a regular product.” Frechette plans on the bar selling at the store through Easter.
Ritz’s Chocolateville web site calls the Save Chocolateville initiative “a localized call-to-action . . . a modern day ‘barn raising’ . . . a collaborative, inside-outside effort to resurrect the spirit of ingenuity and community. The impact of revitalizing Chocolateville will be felt far beyond the city’s borders, removing the financial burden on the state, empowering the people of Central Falls, and doing the ‘greatest good for the greatest number.'”
Purchasing the chocolate bar is an easy (and delicious) way to support the initiative. In addition to being on sale at Whole Foods Market University Heights through Easter, Save Chocolateville will have a table set up at the I HEART PROVIDENCE event and will be highlighted at Whole Foods Market’s annual Chocolate Fest! Details are listed below.
UPDATE: “Rhody Food Tours has donated free food tours of the amazing culinary ethnic-food landscape of Central Falls, RI, to those lucky enough to obtain golden tickets randomly included inside Save Chocolateville chocolate bars. Your first opportunity to win is Tuesday, February 7 at the launch party at Whole Foods Market University Heights.”
Chocolateville Launch Party – Tuesday, February 7, 5 – 7 p.m. Come meet Mike Ritz and/or Willy Wonka and discuss helping Central Falls while also helping to “wrap” the Save Chocolateville bars. Whole Foods Market University Heights, 601 North Main St., Providence, RI 02904.
I HEART PROVIDENCE – Thursday, February 9, 6 – 8 p.m. Celebrate our great city! Live music by Northern Lands. Complimentary food from Ebisu, El Rancho Grande, Fertile Underground, Hudson Street Deli, Los Andes, Sin Desserts, Tip C Cupcakes, Whole Foods, and more! Cash bar by RI Convention Center Catering. This event is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Providence City Hall, 25 Dorrance St., Providence, RI 02903.