Toffler has been in the happiness business since 1972, slinging
sundaes and subs at The Chocolate Factory. Toffler owned an ice
cream shop on Milwaukee’s East Side when Peter Blommer, who was in
the chocolate business, approached him to open a shop in Cedarburg.
Equal parts nostalgia and originality, The Chocolate
Factory started as an ice cream shop and soda fountain then quickly
expanded to serve sandwiches and salads, as well. The business was
designed on the back of a napkin and the first menu was hand
printed. It’s come a long way since then, offering online ordering,
quick pick up, a smartphone app, gluten-free bread and even
Now with eight locations in Southeastern Wisconsin,
stretching from West Bend to Oconomowoc to Oak Creek, The Chocolate
Factory is sticking to what it does best — small batches and premium
quality. Toffler shares why he still has fun at work every day after
more than 40 years.
confusion with the name – a sandwich shop called The Chocolate
We came up with the name The Chocolate Factory
because of Peter’s family’s involvement in the chocolate business.
We intended to just serve ice cream, but then a
customer approached me and told me we couldn’t just serve ice cream,
because it gets really cold outside. It’s a funny story, actually. I
said, “Yeah, I want to add sandwiches like at George Watts Café” and
he replied, “That’s me. I am George Watts!” He took me downtown and
showed me his operation and we’ve had a relationship ever since.
We started calling the sandwiches “heroes.” That’s
what sandwiches were called out East where I grew up, but after
explaining it many times, we just started calling them subs. Now we
just put a tagline in the logo so people know that we serve sub
sandwiches and ice cream.
What is the most
important part of making your sandwiches so darn good? Is there a
We just started putting things together, remembering
what the subs tasted like out East and testing out different places.
We put our own spin on things by putting ovens in all the stores so
that when you get a sub from us, you’ll always get a warm, lightly
crusted roll, freshly baked in small batches all day.
Each sandwich gets a generous shake of oregano, and
there is a secret ingredient in the mayo, which I can’t reveal or
otherwise I’d have to kill you. And people really love the pepper
bar with the hot pepper relish.
Why do you think
soda fountains went away?
People don’t get it. My first job in high school was
being a soda jerk at a drug store and I learned a lot there. It was
a place where people gathered and connected. The nostalgia is coming
back a little bit. We try to incorporate a little of it into the
stores with the décor and the phosphates, old-fashioned root beer
floats and banana splits.
What does it take
to stay in business for as long as you have?
You have to know
how to hire the right people and treat them the way you would want
to be treated. We have managers that have been with us for 35 years
and employees for as long as 15 years. Be honest and up front with
everyone. And train them within an inch of their life!
This story ran in the June 2019 issue of: