■ This cheery sign welcomes customers to Suess Chocolates & Pastries’ new store at 2909 E. Madison St. photo/Katie McVicker
■ This cheery sign welcomes customers to Suess Chocolates & Pastries’ new store at 2909 E. Madison St. photo/Katie McVicker
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Living in Madison Valley just got a little sweeter. Last Friday, May 1, Suess Chocolates & Pastries opened at 2909B E. Madison St., hoping to seduce customers with its specialty German chocolates and provide Oh! Chocolate with some neighborly competition.

HEY, SUESS!

Dennis Haupt founded Suess Chocolates with the help of his friends Karl Kim and David Hua. Born and raised in Germany, Haupt wants to bring his family recipes to the American market.

"Our mission is to bring back the fun in all things chocolate," Haupt said. "You go to chocolate stores in Seattle and they seem upscale and museum-like. You're intimidated to touch things on the shelves because everything is so pristine."

Haupt said his family-friendly store encourages children's curiosity.

"Whenever kids walk into a store, if there's interest, we'll show them into the kitchen," he said. "We want their feedback."

Though Suess Chocolates has a smaller venue than its competitor, customers are invited to unwind at the café's scattered tables and to sample a variety of German chocolates, pastries and coffee drinks.

Haupt plans on securing regulars with three attractions: the rich but tart taste of his German chocolates, later store hours (Suess closes at 7 p.m.; Oh! Chocolate closes at 6 p.m.) and less expensive community chocolate-making classes (Oh! Chocolate charges adults $59 per class to participate; Suess charges $45).

Haupt launched his store in the neighborhood because he lives close by and believes the area has a good family demographic.

Sam Levine, part-owner of the Fury Extraordinary Consignment store and member of the Madison Valley Merchants Association, said Madison Street is a great location for a shop because the block gets the most traffic, while the complex where Oh! Chocolate stands is located, in Arboretum Court, is separated from the rest of the area.

SAY OH! TO CHOCOLATE

Margo Masaoka, who co-owns Oh! Chocolate (3131 E. Madison St., No. 100) with her sister, Nola Wyse, isn't worried about losing her customers. She said she receives constant support from the Madison Park and Madison Valley communities.

"We welcome Suess Chocolates to the neighborhood and wish them every success," Masaoka said. "A little friendly competition is good, as it promotes pride of product and continual striving to create the perfect confections for our customers."

Masaoka's parents, Carl and Gertie Krautheim, started the business more than 40 years ago. They "wanted to create the most delectable, handcrafted chocolate confections, using the highest-quality ingredients for their customers to enjoy with their family and friends," Masaoka said.

The first Oh! Chocolate store was established in Culver City, Calif. Today, the store has locations in Mercer Island, Bellevue and Madison Park.

"We were thrilled to open our Madison Park Store in 2005," Masaoka said. "It is larger than our other stores, so we are able to offer a variety of activities to our customers, such as our chocolate classes and Parlour Nights, with wine and delectable bites. The classes are informative and fun, as instructors guide students through the fascinating world of chocolate, which culminates with each student actually dipping into warm chocolate and pulling out their own glossy creations."

INDULGE THYSELF

Levine, a member of the Merchants Association, thinks if Haupt wants to be successful he will need to differentiate himself from Oh! Chocolate, have a lot of food options and create high-quality products.

"Right now isn't a very good time to open a business at all," she said. "It usually takes about three years to start making a profit, but during this economy, it might take about four or five. People are being a lot more careful with their money."

But neither of the store owners are worried about the poor economy hurting business; they claim people turn to comfort foods during tough times.

"I don't think that the chocolate industry has been hurt with regards to the recession," Haupt said. "Even in the current crisis, I think a lot people continue to indulge themselves. We have a winning combination: Parents and kids can relax and enjoy good pastries."

For more information on the respective stores, visit www.suesschocolates.com or www.ohchocolate.com.