By Christina Guerrero
FRANK CRAIL’S DREAM of raising his seven
children in a small town took the family to
Durango, Colorado, early in 1981. An entrepreneur, Crail, along with his two business
partners, decided he would open a family business in the heart of the town, but he never
imagined he would end up moving mountains.
Mountains of chocolate, that is.
Crail opened the first Rocky Mountain
Chocolate Factory (RMCF) on Memorial
Day, 1981, after careful research of the town’s
needs and potential.
“Frank literally walked up and down the
main street of Durango and asked people what
business they needed,” says Ed Dudley, senior
vice president, sales and marketing, for RMCF.
Crail says, “It came down to either a car
wash or a chocolate shop. I think I made the
A smart businessman, Crail knew his
weaknesses, and because he knew nothing
about making confections, he soon recruited
Everett Seeley, a 70-year-old retired San Diego
master candy maker, to come to Durango and
teach him how to make chocolates.
This learning process contributed to the
distinctiveness of the product. When Crail
began dipping chocolates he didn’t realize he
needed to consider the weight of the candy centers before he dipped them, and he often made
the centers too big, which added to the moun-tain-like proportions, and when chocolates
didn’t look just right, he often redipped them.
“If you’ve ever seen our chocolates, you
know: We don’t make a turtle, we make a Bear,”
Dudley says, referring to the large size of the
candies. “We don’t make a peanut butter cup,
we make a Peanut Butter Bucket.”
Crail’s chocolates caught on quickly.
Within three years, he opened a (now
53,000-square-foot) factory in Durango to
manufacture half of the confections that
couldn’t be produced in his Rocky Mountain
Chocolate Factory stores. Crail credits the
company’s 281 independent franchise opera-
tors with the popularity of the candies as well.
Today, 361 RMCF outlets operate in the
U.S., Canada, United Arab Emirates, Japan,
South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
RMCF’s primary chocolate supplier is the
San Francisco–based Guittard Chocolate
Company, a founding member of the World
Cocoa Foundation, which promotes a sustainable cocoa economy in Africa and South
America, where the cocoa beans are grown
and exported. In 1996, RMCF began producing sugar-free and no-sugar-added chocolates
sweetened primarily with malitol, due to the
demand for their great-tasting chocolate made
with less sugar.
RMCF reaches out to community members where it does business through several
philanthropic events. One franchise owner
created Fudge for Troops to show his gratitude and support for men and women in the
armed services. The program donates a
pound of fudge to be included in care packages for troops deployed overseas for every
pound of fudge sold in participating stores or
online in July.
“Our franchise owners are rooted in their
communities, so people get to know their
local Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
store,” Dudley says. “We really feel blessed to
be where we are. This is a great American
small-business story.” C
Family man turns chocolatier
Top left: The Rocky Mountain Chocolate
Factory (RMCF) Valentine’s Day Truffle
Assortment. Above: Truffles are enrobed
with chocolate in the Durango factory.
Company: Rocky Mountain
CEO: Frank Crail
265 Turner Drive,
Durango, CO 81303
Products at Costco.com:
Valentine’s Day Truffle Assortment,
Gourmet Dark Chocolate Assortment and Best of Sugar Free
Comments about Costco: “Rocky
Mountain Chocolate Factory was
founded with the desire to provide
customers with delicious handmade
chocolates. Our unique recipes were
perfected in our retail stores while
entertaining customers with cooking demonstrations and sampling.
We are grateful to do business with
Costco and extend this tradition to
Costco’s members.”—Frank Crail,
founder, president and CEO of RMCF