Hollander Chocolate plans move to long-vacant EVS building in Port

Company’s proposal for offices, innovation lab, distribution center at former site of car dealership receives warm reception from design board

HOLLANDER CHOCOLATE CO. owner Doug Podzilni held bottles of the company’s chocolate and caramel sauces the firm sells to restaurants, coffeehouses and cafes while standing in front of the former Ernie von Schledorn car dealership on South Spring Street in Port. Podzilni is planning to buy the building and renovate it to house much of the company’s operations. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington’s south gateway may get new life — and a touch of the Netherlands — with the news that Hollander Chocolate Co. plans to buy the long vacant Ernie von Schledorn car dealership on South Spring Street and move its headquarters there.

A concept plan for the building was presented to the city’s Design Review Board Tuesday, and members greeted it enthusiastically.

“We’ve always envisioned something like this on that site,” board member Marc Eernisse said. “This is what we want. This is our entrance to the city.”

“It will be worth the wait to have a successful and growing company there,” Board Chairman Rob Vanden Noven said, noting the former dealership has sat vacant for more than a decade.

Hollander Chocolate owner Doug Podzilni said he plans to consolidate many of the company’s operations in Port, including its offices, innovation lab and distribution center.

But, he said, he does not plan to move the firms production facilities to Port.

“We don’t think that would be a good fit. We want this to be the public face of our company,” Podzilni said. “This is our chance to show ourselves to the broader community. We want it to be a fun place for people.

“This is what we want them to think of when they think of Hollander Chocolate.”

Podzilni said the company has a three-phase plan for the building that he would like to implement over the next two years.

Phase one involves removing remnants of the car dealership and bringing the building up to food-grade standards so the firm can receive the needed state and federal certifications, then move its inventory to the building and relocate its operations personnel to Port.

The second phase involves remodeling the office space and relocating office personnel, as well as creating an interactive product innovation lab.

The last phase includes building public areas, such as a coffee shop, gift shop and chocolate museum and interactive innovation lab.

Board members offered some suggestions for the planned improvements, such as using architectural features to define the entrance to the public areas.

The proposal will be reviewed by the city’s Plan Commission when it meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 19.

The former car showroom will be used for the public areas, he told the Design Review Board, while the dealership’s offices will be used for Hollander’s offices. The rest of the building will then be used for a distribution center that will house both raw materials and finished goods.

Both the interior and exterior of the building will be renovated, he said, and green space added. A berm and trees will help screen the loading docks on the south end of the building, and landscaping that includes plenty of tulips will be added.

The 5.25-acre site has plenty of room for future expansion, Podzilni said, noting that the company is growing by leaps and bounds.

Podzilni said he had been involved in cocoa trading earlier in his career, adding he has “always loved, loved, loved the chocolate world.”

He worked in other fields but about seven years ago decided to turn his passion in to a company, forming Hollander.

The company gets its cocoa from Holland, he said, where the best cocoa is processed.

Hollander Chocolate Co. produces high-quality chocolate syrups and powders, primarily for the cafe and restaurant industry.

“We’re sold in thousands of coffee shops across the country and world,” Podzilni said, including the Middle East, Korea and Guatemala. “You go to Java Dock (in Port Washington) and you’ll see our product there.”

“We’re kind of considered the cool kids in the coffee industry.”

With the planned gift shop, Podzilni said, the company may produce some retail products, such as hot chocolate mixes and confections, to be offered there.

Hollander specializes in high-quality chocolate, he said, and takes pride in the fact its chocolate is Rainforest Alliance certified, meaning the farmers who grew the cocoa are paid a living wage.

“We’re never going to replace Hershey’s syrup in the grocery store,” Podzilni said. “We can’t compete with Hershey because all our products are extremely high quality.”

The company has been growing by leaps and bounds, Podzilni said, and he hopes that they can attract workers in Ozaukee County.

“We feel like there’s a talent pool in Port. We think we could attract some smart people in Port,” he said.

The company currently has offices in Germantown, Fox Point and Port, all of which will be consolidated in Port.

He looked to Port for the new facility because he and his wife enjoy the city and his employees here like the community, Podzilni said.

“We think that location is the perfect spot,” he said. “It’s not really adding any excitement to the city now, but we hope to do that.” And we think Port’s interests and Hollander’s interests align — there’s no daylight between them.”

And, he said, the company wants to get the area excited about chocolate with the museum, educational programs, school tours and other events.

“I want people to have fun with chocolate,” Podzilni said, adding he can foresee a time when the company holds blind taste testings on a regular basis for people to participate in.

Podzilni said he hopes to purchase the dealership property as soon as possible and begin work, with portions of the business moving in this fall.


Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login