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San Diego At Large

Business Is Hopping at Chocolate Factory

April 02, 1985|TOM GORMAN

If anyone can empathize with Santa's elves the week before Christmas, it's William Lamme the week before Easter.

He owns and operates The Chocolate Factory in San Marcos, and Lamme is up to his sweet tooth making solid chocolate Easter bunnies. He makes hundreds of them every day, and by closing time he is sold out, even though he's putting in 15-hour days.

"The nice thing about being your boss," he reflects, "is that nobody can tell you when to quit."

Lamme, 54, an engineer by trade, got into the candy business in 1969 when he began manufacturing a pectin jelly product called "Fruit Thins." Among his wholesale customers is a Hawaiian outfit, and Lamme tells of a San Marcos woman who would visit the islands and bring them back home to her friends as a souvenir--until she discovered that they were made down the street from her.

In 1977, Lamme purchased a candy manufacturing business and expanded it by molding chocolate. It's a relatively simple process: He buys different kinds of chocolate and blends it in a 250-pound tub, which melts the chunks overnight. The chocolate then goes through a gizmo that cools it, doing something to the molecules that allow them to eventually form hard and shiny. He then pours the stuff into the plastic molds and puts it into a refrigerator for cooling and hardening before separating the molds and packaging the finished product.

His four children capitalized on the chocolate connection. "My kids were quite the entrepreneurs in school," he said. "They discovered the chocolate market, and that candy will bring two to five times its value when it's sold under the desk."

Lamme is the only full-time employee of The Chocolate Factory. He shuts it down for a couple of weeks during hot summer months when chocolate sales slow down, and he hires part-time help during peak seasons.

Easter is his busiest time. He makes chocolate bunnies in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging in weight from two ounces to an 18-inch, 10-pounder ($50). There's not a hollow bunny in the place. "Biting into a hollow chocolate bunny is like kissing a woman through a handkerchief. It leaves a lot to be desired." Then, after a pause, he adds, "My kids say they're tired of hearing that line. They want me to come up with a new one."

Lamme doesn't stick just to the bunny business. He also molds chocolate in the form of paschal lambs, chickens, ducks, teddy bears, cats, dogs, Santa faces, bowling balls, golf balls, airplanes, locomotives and a baseball glove (milk chocolate) holding a baseball (white chocolate). He even sells just plain chunks of chocolate so you don't have to feel guilty destroying an ear or a wing.

Despite all the attention given to health, Lamme says there are still lots of chocoholics who need their fix. "Everyone's fat conscious, sugar conscious and calorie conscious. But that's OK. There's not a single calorie in my chocolate," he deadpans. "There are multiple calories, not a single one. If you're going to break a diet, this is a nice way to do it."

There are chocoholics everywhere. Lamme gets industrial supplies from a local manufacturer who accepts payment in chocolate.

Chocolate has an important role in romance, he notes.

"If you love someone, you tell 'em, 'I love you more than chocolate itself.' "

A Sad Sack of a Pack

A fellow walked into the Goodrich Surplus store on Crosby Street in San Diego the other day and was delighted by his find: a brand new, military-issue backpack for the remarkably low price of $40.

He was wary of buying it, given the FBI sting operation in recent weeks, which has caught surplus dealers red-handed buying and selling stolen military goods. The Goodrich Surplus salesman was conscious of the arrests, too, and understandably maybe a little defensive about selling the backpack.

"We bought out Sad Sack's inventory, because he's going to jail," the salesman said, referring to the demise of a competitor who was arrested by authorities for selling hot goods. Sounds like "Sad Sack's Going-to-Jail Sale."

Let Them Eat Burgers

Among the issues of the day in Hillcrest is word that The Gallery Store is losing its lease. Worse yet, there's rumor that a Burger King is eyeing the 5th Avenue site.

The thought that the art boutique would give way to a fast-food joint is causing anguish among those who support Hillcrest's trendy ambiance.

Consider, for instance, the conversation overheard at Hillcrest's Quel Fromage coffee shop, between two customers mortified by the prospect of a Burger King:

"Well, maybe they'll tailor their approach," said one.

"And do what?" the other shot back. "Offer quiche?"

Covering All the Bases

The Community Services Department at Escondido City Hall has announced its new spring recreation program.

Three of the classes seem to share a common thread: "Contemporary Romance Writer's Workshop," "High Trust Relationships" and "Letting Go: The Emotional, Practical and Legal Considerations of Ending a Marriage."

The minutes of the Mira Mesa Town Council meeting include this remark attributed to Barbara Drury of the Mira Mesa-Scripps Ranch Chamber of Commerce:

"In spite of some confusion, the Chamber of Commerce does exist."

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