Beloved Manitoulin Chocolate Works to expand to Perth in eastern Ontario

Manitoulin Chocolate Works in Kagawong, Ontario. Photo from Facebook.

PERTH—Kagawong’s Manitoulin Chocolate Works will be opening its first off-Island location in historic Perth this spring.

“We have been looking for a second location, in eastern Ontario, for about five years now,” explained chocolatier Heather McKeen who, along with her family, owns Manitoulin Chocolate Works in Kagawong. “I knew I would be moving to the Ottawa area, and wanted to find somewhere on the outskirts that had the same small town charm and feel of Kagawong.”

Ms. McKeen said it was a long journey to find the right location which first started at Carleton Place. “We worked on that location for about a year, but because of municipal politics it fell through and we had to go back to the drawing board,” she explained.

In the fall of October 2016, the McKeen family was contacted by John Stewart, the owner of Code’s Mill on the Park, who told the family he had a space available and asked if they were interested.

“We were really busy on Manitoulin at the time with Thanksgiving and then I was away on my honeymoon, but while I was away my mom responded to John and set up a time for us to see the space.”

When the McKeen family, including Heather’s father Keith, mother Louise and sister Brenda, went to see the Perth building, it was love at first sight. “It was exactly what we were looking for,” said Ms. McKeen. “It is across the park and had a sitting area inside and outside.”

She explained the new space has two areas, which are currently being renovated with one area to be converted for production and the other for retail.

The location will also offer customers a look at the chocolate making process, as the space will feature a large viewing window where patrons will be able to see half of the kitchen.

Ms. McKeen said the community of Perth has been very welcoming and that she and her husband are currently looking for a home in the area.

“It (Perth) has been great,” said Ms. McKeen. “Everyone has been really friendly and welcoming. There is a good business community and we have become part of the BIA and chamber of commerce.”

Perth Chocolate Works will be carrying a similar product line as Manitoulin Chocolate Works to start. “That’s what we know,” Ms. McKeen said. “As we go, we will see what the needs of our customer base are.”

Ms. McKeen has also been working with Algonquin College and is looking to hire four to five staff members.

Louise McKeen started Manitoulin Chocolate Works in 1998, an idea that came to her while organizing Christmas in the Park.

“It was a tiny store at first and we’ve since expanded two or three times,” said Heather McKeen.

Ms. McKeen said there was never any pressure for her or her sister to get into the family business, but it was a passion for both of them. Ms. McKeen attended the University of Ottawa where she earned a degree in business management, but continued to take courses in chocolate making, providing her with a diverse knowledge base in both the business and creative side of running a specialty chocolate store. 

“Chocolate is always changing—it’s never the same,” said Ms. McKeen of her love for the art. “It offers me a creative outlet—I’m always being accused of creating too many products (from her business partners/family), but coming up with new ideas is one of the things I love the most.”

Ms. McKeen shared her vision for Perth Chocolate Works. “I want to provide a great customer experience. Somewhere people can not only get a gift, but a treat for themselves.” A reflection of the family’s Kagawong store.

Perth Chocolate Works is scheduled to open this spring, while Kagawong Chocolate Works will reopen for the season May 1.