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Denise Steele, owner of Lohcally Artisan Chocolates

Featured Article

Building a Community-Focused Business

Woman-owned chocolate shop brings delight to Northwest Columbus

Denise Steele, owner of Lohcally Artisan Chocolates, just celebrated her one year anniversary of holding her quaint chocolate shop on prime real estate in downtown Powell, located at 77 W. Olentangy Street.

Her love of chocolate started when she was a little girl watching her own mother work in a chocolate shop, witnessing firsthand the love and happiness that a simple hometown shop can bring.

“It was an uplifting place that really represented the town,” she says of Hartville, Ohio, an Amish-Mennonite, historical community where people came in to buy gifts and goodies for themselves and loved ones, remembering that feel-good feeling that swept over her as she watched happy customers walk out with their delectable treats.

“It was part of the appeal that gave the town its identity,” she says of the shop. “I knew I wanted to have something that would do the same thing of bringing a community together. That set the tone for what I wanted the business to be for the community.”

Originally starting out as a wholesale model in 2019, carrying her chocolates in surrounding local shops, she was forced to pivot when Covid hit. That, plus the demand from customers (most of whom she acquired from being a vendor at the North Market downtown) pushed her to open her own space—a decision the community is thankful for.

Denise's specialty is the hand-painted chocolate truffles that she creates in the back of her retail shop; gorgeous, bite-size chocolates that are as pretty to look at as they are delicious to taste. “Everybody kept focusing on those so we just kept expanding with more of that aesthetic, and they are the star of the show,” she says of the glistening marble chocolates.

If you know anything about chocolate-making, you know it is an arduously difficult craft to perfect—one of the most difficult food mediums to learn, Denise tells me—as achieving a "properly tempered chocolate" is quite challenging, even to the most skilled chocolatiers.

“The chocolate must go through a precise temperature curve to achieve perfection, which requires weaning out all of the ‘bad’ crystals,” Denise explains of the process. “We ensure our chocolates have that shine and snap, and that ‘Wow’ factor each time you taste them.”

What has perhaps surprised Denise the most about her business is that she’s seen people really embrace gift-giving, for any occasion, like going to someone’s house for dinner and wanting to bring over a special treat. 

“They are fun little conversation starters,” she says of the truffles. “I think people are looking for gifts to give that they identify with, and we’re just trying to add to that.”

Her advice to women looking to start a business, open a store or pursue anything entrepreneurial, is to realize that life is short, suggesting we simply need to “just go for it” without overthinking.

“I feel that women have so many different objectives tugging at them,” she says. “We are always second-guessing ourselves. Embracing the stage that you’re at and persevering through, whether it’s career, family or a health struggle, there will always be a challenge to overcome...If you have a passion or dream that will benefit someone else in your community, I say go for it. That’s what I find to be the most fulfilling—to have the drive and purpose of ‘What am I doing this for?’—serving the community and providing encouragement.”

  • Denise Steele, owner of Lohcally Artisan Chocolates