By Stephanie Muschalik | Lariat Contributor
On the corner of 11th Street and Franklin Avenue sits a new hot spot in Waco, Splendid Oaks Chocolates. Known for hand-crafted artesian chocolate, unique flavors of ice cream and their close-knit staff, this dessert place is yet another Waco small business.
Kevin DeVries, owner of Splendid Oaks Chocolates and Baylor University graduate, started Splendid Oaks in the fall of 2018 when it was just a solo operation. DeVries pursued a degree in entrepreneurship at Baylor and said he was fascinated by the prospect of building a business from scratch.
The idea for a chocolate shop came from what DeVries called an untapped market in Waco, where he saw the need for a new dessert shop and wanted to fill it. He said he started by selling his products at a few local farmer’s markets until he expanded his knowledge by learning from some of the best chocolatiers in the nation, including an expert in in Las Vegas. Afterward, he brought that know-how back to Waco.
“I believe there’s nothing like it in Waco. I haven’t seen anything like it,” Tito Serrato, employee, said. “Just the fact that it’s from a Baylor graduate, he worked his tail off at Baylor, and now he’s serving back the community, giving his product back to Waco was inspiring.”
Serrato has worked on product development and at front of shop as the cashier. Taste testing flavors for himself, Serrato said, he pursued feedback from others: taking polls online, asking employee opinions and asking customers what flavors they would most like to see in the shop.
Audrey High, Splendid Oaks chocolatier, has been an employee at the business since October 2020, while simultaneously working towards her seminary degree. High said she did not know much about chocolate either before beginning her job at Splendid Oaks Chocolates, but saw DeVries’s vision and wanted to do something with her hands away from a screen. She enjoyed learning the four-day process of creating each box of chocolates, High said, and now gets to enjoy doing it herself.
DeVries and the staff’s servant-hearted work ethic has not gone unnoticed with customers either. Riley Conine, a loyal customer of Splendid Oaks Chocolates, said she has enjoyed every experience she’s had at the business. Carrollton freshman Chloe Floyd is in agreement with Conine, she’s a regular and enjoys the environment of the shop, she said.
DeVries said there are plenty of other loyal customers of Splendid Oaks Chocolates who say that they cannot stop coming back for the unique treats, including one girl that comes in every single day for ice cream and others who come in about once a week. DeVries said the staff has bonded with those regulars as they work the front counter.
“Waco has a foodie niche and there are great dessert places in Waco but there’s nothing like a high-end chocolate place,” High said. “Waco has the market for a place like Splendid Oaks to succeed and its location next to a farm-to-table restaurant like Milo is just really perfect.”
Serrato said it’s the in-house-made, one-of-a-kind chocolate that ultimately continues to keep customers coming back. He said he thinks Splendid Oaks Chocolates has a lot to be proud of.
The Splendid Oaks employees, DeVries said he is most proud and can rely on them for support and advice. Many of the employees were people he already knew, so he said there was already a foundation of trust before his doors opened. With loyal customers, hand-crafted chocolate, and collaborative staff, DeVries said Splendid Oaks is a must-stop shop for anyone in the Waco area.