At Peace by Chocolate in Antigonish, N.S., every single piece of chocolate tells a story of perseverance, dedication and inclusion. Moulded into the shapes of maple leaves, hearts and damask roses, these treats share a tale of sweet inspiration, born of one family’s tremendous loss.
For many years, Assam Hadhad was a chocolatier who operated a factory in Damascus, Syria, shipping his products all over the Middle East. His son Tareq was pursuing his own passion by studying to become a doctor. But when missiles demolished the Hadhads’ factory and home, and a rocket exploded close to Tareq and his brother, the family decided it was time to go.
Leaving everything behind, the family fled to Lebanon, where they lived in a refugee camp for the next three years. In December 2015, Tareq arrived in Canada on the second flight of the campaign that brought 25,000 Syrians to this country. In Halifax, he was met by people waving signs that read “Welcome to Canada, Tareq!” He was welcomed not as a refugee, he says, but as a new Canadian.
His family followed two weeks later, and his father began rebuilding the business. Assam started making chocolates in his home kitchen and selling them at the local farmer’s market, where people would line up at 7:30 a.m. to buy his creations. When Tareq’s mom had had enough (the kitchen wasn’t a factory!), the community came together to help Assam build a tiny shed next to their house.
As word of the delicious chocolates spread and demand grew, Assam stood in the shed for hours, making enough pieces to sell at Peace by Chocolate’s increasingly busy table at the market. After the business was recognized by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who gave a special shout-out to the Hadhad family during a speech at the United Nations, tourists began stopping at the tiny shed by the busload.
By then, Peace by Chocolate and the Hadhads had also caught the attention of Steve Read, Local Business Development Manager for Sobeys Atlantic Canada. Steve has spent his entire career travelling the roads of Atlantic Canada, uncovering delicious products to bring to Sobeys customers.
Although the Hadhads’ story initially caught his attention, it was the quality of the chocolates that convinced Steve he needed to bring them to Sobeys stores. Every piece is handmade, using only the best fair-trade chocolate and ingredients.
Steve got to know Tareq and Assam, talking chocolate and business with them in the shed and the market. The Hadhads wanted to expand, but they would need a larger factory first. A nearby warehouse owned by Sobeys was the answer. The facility already housed Big 8, the Sobeys Atlantic bottled-water business, but there was vacant space that Sobeys could convert into exactly what Peace by Chocolate needed.
This past September, after months of construction, the new Peace by Chocolate factory opened and the Hadhads now employ more than 20 people. Next up: They plan to hire refugees from across the country to distribute their chocolates and are looking to launch a line of peace-inspired clothing.
Now the solid chocolate maple leaves and hearts that Assam continues to make in homage to his new country are available at your local Sobeys store in Atlantic Canada, and in select Ontario and Foodland stores as well. They are a delicious reminder of Peace by Chocolate’s sweet success.