Port to apply for loan on behalf of chocolate firm

Money from state fund will help company that plans to convert long-vacant EVS building into headquarters
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The City of Port Washington agreed earlier this month to apply for a $250,000 loan from the State of Wisconsin to help Hollander Chocolate Co. as it redevelops the former Ernie von Schledorn car dealership on South Spring Street.

On Oct. 4, the Common Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city to apply for a Community Development Investment Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Although the grant was sought by Gourmet Source LLC, aka Hollander Chocolate, the state requires that the city apply for the funding. It will then reimburse the company for qualified expenses.

This is the second time this year that the city has facilitated a CDI grant for a local business. The city applied for and received a $250,000 loan to help with the development of Inventors Brewpub on the north marina slip.

Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said Hollander reached out to the city to seek the grant shortly after purchasing the long vacant car dealership.

After consulting with the state, the Economic Development Corp. said the CDI grant would be the best fit for the project.

The grant is intended to provide incentives for “shovel ready projects,” particularly those in downtowns and along connecting corridors, with an emphasis on community development, job opportunities, increased property values and investments by local and private partners, the city’s resolution states.

As a condition of the grant, Hollander must provide an investment in the project of at least three times the grant, according to the city.

Hollander came to the city earlier this year with plans to purchase the former car dealership at 1180 S. Spring St. and use it as its headquarters, consolidating many of its operations there, including its offices, innovation lab and distribution center.

Owner Doug Podzilni said the company has a three-phase plan for the building that will be implemented 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.

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.

Podzilni said he does not plan to move his 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,” he 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.”

Hollander Chocolate 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.

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

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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.

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