Romeo Garcia speaks to guests at the grand opening of his chocolate shop, Romeo Chocolates, on Saturday, October 7, as Mayor Robert Garcia (left) and DLBA President Kraig Kojian look on. Photos by Kristopher Carrasco.
If you would have asked Romeo Garcia ten years ago what his future would hold for him, being a professional chocolatier in his own kitchen on Pine Avenue would not have been his answer.
Garcia went from working 14 years in higher education as a dean at Coastline Community College to the world of chocolate-making artistry, a passion that he can now continue to share with the Long Beach community after the grand opening of his chocolate shop, Romeo Chocolates, on Saturday.
“I don’t think I would have ever fathomed that I would transition into this career, but the thing is you don’t know where passion takes you,” he told the Post. “Eight years ago I started studying [chocolate] and I found it to be very meditative […] so I stuck with it.”
Now open as a brick and mortar next to several other small businesses that make up North Pine’s growing “Decadent Row,” Romeo Chocolates adds a new storefront to the former City Place Center where guests can partake in specially-crafted chocolates, beverages and other desserts.
“We offer seasonal truffles that our guests are really enjoying,” Garcia said. “We also offer beer, wine, coffee, too. Some things to look forward to in the future will be to have a full schedule for our chocolate-making workshops for kids and our chocolate-wine pairing events.”
His company started out as a pop-up shop in Long Beach at MADE by Millworks (formally MADE in Long Beach), with Garcia crafting his desserts from home. With the support of his friends and family, he started a KickStarter project that raised over $21,000 that would help him create his dream kitchen and future brand.
The grand opening event was a way for Garcia to thank those who have been supportive of his journey and welcome them to his new kitchen, which opened in June.
Joining Garcia for the grand opening were his Kickstarter supporters, family, local business owners and committed customers.
Many of those who have been supporting Garcia—including Laurie Gray, owner of The Pie Bar, a neighboring bakery that also started off similarly as a pop-up shop—were excited to see Romeo Chocolates’ doors open.
“We were both little start-up companies cooking out of our homes so we became friends,” Gray said. “I’m really proud of him because a lot of us were gently pushing and encouraging him to get the shop open. We all lift each other up and all the small businesses support each other.”
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia also attended the grand opening in support of Garcia and spoke at the ribbon-cutting about the importance of the growing businesses.
He is looking forward to seeing Romeo Chocolates serve the diverse needs of the community.
“I’m very excited about Romeo’s opening up, he’s a great guy who’s been doing pop-up stores for a long time by selling his chocolates around the city, so we’re just really proud of him,” Garcia said. “This is now serving the needs of the community, it’s a diverse need.”
Romeo Chocolates is located at 460 Pine Avenue. For more information, click here.