From rocket science to chocolate science, Greer learning a new career

PORT ALLEN — Maybe it did take a rocket scientist to figure out that if his sons could return to Hawaii, so could he.

So when Patrick Greer and David Greer decided they would attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa after graduating from high school in California, parents Don and Marlene (Olivas) Greer decided to follow.

Sort of.

Yesterday, the family held a blessing of their new business, Kauai Chocolate Company, at the Port Allen Marina Center here.

With the sons deciding to attend college in the islands, and the elder Greers retiring from their California jobs, the timing was perfect for the Greers to come back to Kauai, where Marlene Greer was born and raised.

The elder Greers thought, “Why do they (the sons) get to go to Hawaii, and we don’t?” Don Greer said.

Don Greer retired from NASA, armed with a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering. Marlene Greer had been an elementary-school counselor.

They always talked about retiring on Kauai, and went down a list of potential business opportunities, including coin-operated laundry center and restaurant, before the idea of a chocolate factory popped into their heads, Don Greer recalled.

The combined facts that they both love chocolate, and found there was no existing chocolate factory on Kauai, sealed the decision and the deal.

“At that point, neither one of us knew about chocolate,” so their California home’s kitchen was turned into an experimental chocolate laboratory, he said.

Books and the Internet were research and educational tools for a business two years in the planning. “We were looking for a business to start over here on Kauai,” he said.

“There isn’t one here,” until now, Don Greer said of a Kauai chocolate factory. The Port Allen Marina Center is brand new, and looked attractive as a place to do business, he said.

All chocolates are made right in the store, which last week sported separate “Not” and “Yet” signs on the front doors, as potential patrons tried to enter and buy chocolates before the family had any to sell.

Last week was a blur of frantic activity, trying to get enough chocolates made to open on Saturday and satisfy what is expected to be rabid demand for their products, Marlene Greer said.

Products use passion fruit, coconut, guava from Kilauea’s Guava Kai Plantation, Kauai Coffee, Kauai Kookies, and other local ingredients.

Original creations include chocolate opihis, utilizing bite-sized Kauai Kookies with a macadamia nut held atop the cookie with a dab of caramel, and run through a double chocolate waterfall called an enrober to finish the domed treat from the mind of Marlene Greer.

Another found-only-here treat is a creation given the name “The Brick” by a happy test customer. It includes layers of macadamia nuts, caramel, toffee and chocolate poured into a large, shallow pan and baked and cut brownie-style.

To differentiate their chocolate-covered macadamia-nut offering from other mass-produced versions, the Kauai Chocolate Company’s creation includes macadamia nuts pre-wrapped in chocolate of their own, then placed atop a fondant, or sugar-based cream center, then run again through the double chocolate waterfall to produce a domed treat.

On the day of a pre-opening visit, there were chocolates with centers of coconut, Kauai Coffee, chocolate and macadamia nuts cooling on special shelves.

Eventually, fudge, truffles and ice cream will be included in the mix of offerings.

Special molds will allow the family and workers to create volcano truffles, or truffles with the domed look that appears to be headed for signature status at the factory.

And why does Don Greer think the business will be a success? “Because everybody loves chocolate,” he said.

He is the cook, and she handles the books.

Most of the confectioners chocolate used here comes from a company called Peters, which used to be a subsidiary of chocolate giant Nestle. A warehouse in Honolulu ensures fresh product for the new business here.

Chocolate is sold by the piece or by the pound, or by tens or hundreds of pounds, Marlene Greer hopes aloud.

It wouldn’t be a shop owned and operated by a mechanical engineer without some sort of gizmo, so Don Greer designed, fabricated, built and installed ice-cold work stations for creation of frozen treats, using copper sheeting over a commercial freezer.

Three square wooden covers about the size of medium pizza boxes are moved to reveal the copper work stations.

Another touch is the floor of the business, which looks like it has been swirled with fresh chocolate. They did that themselves, too.

The couple, married in 1978 at the Fern Grotto, had been working and living in California for around 20 years, and are now living in Niumalu.

The shop is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Waialo Road leading to the Port Allen Small Boat Harbor.

Please call 335-0448 for more information.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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