I travel as often as possible, whether I’m part of a group or solo. And this chocoholic always enjoys checking out local purveyors. But a trip to Chocolaterie Stam in Des Moines, Iowa, came as a complete surprise.
When I visited the city for lunch with several editors, a number of years ago, I also had some downtime. So I drove around until I bumped into this family-owned chocolate enterprise that began in Amsterdam, and has operated in this Midwest town for decades.
The moment I stepped inside I felt as if I’d entered a time machine.
My surroundings spirited me back to the 1900s. Only the computerized checkout told me otherwise. A baby grand and antique upholstered chairs in rich chocolate brown filled a cozy seating area that flanked a mustard-colored wall filled with vintage photos. Gold-painted faux arches decorated a long wall behind the service counter filled with a beverage menu and dozens of flavored syrups.
I sampled delicious dark chocolate while admiring this family’s sweet artistry. There were tiny white chocolate swans with clearly defined feathers as well as chocolate coaches and horses, and cognac cream or chocolate rum truffles. Luscious cream- and nut-filled bonbons spilled from a wicker horn of plenty. The staggering array of bonbon flavors was primarily available in dark or milk chocolate with choices such as Tea Ganache, Forest Berry Cream, Italian Cherry Cream and Crème Brule.
But most of all, I loved the Stam story. Nearly a century before the family officially launched their chocolate enterprise in Amsterdam, their bakery was known for pastries and chocolates. When customers especially clamored for the chocolates, patriarch, Jacobus Stam, shifted the company’s focus to exclusively making these decadent treats. That was in 1913.
By the 1930s-1940s, three of Stam's four sons, and one daughter, worked with him, and each one developed his/her own branch of the business. The chocolaterie really took off in Amsterdam. When one son decided Americans would appreciate these quality chocolates, he opened his first branch in the United States.
Today residents of Wisconsin, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, and several other Iowa cities, also enjoy Chocolaterie Stam stores – where sweet indulgence has been a way of life for more than 100 years.
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