Le Chocolat: A must-stop in downtown

“It’s a fun business,” said Bernie Katz, of his downtown Williamsport business, Le Chocolat. ” really is.”

For 17 years, Katz and his wife Bonnie have been operating their candy shop at 420 Pine St.

The fun is in meeting the customers.

But Bernie makes it clear, running a small shop and meeting all the needs of his small business is challenging as well.

It’s all about satisfying patrons and adopting to the ever evolving whims and trends of the market.

“We buy our chocolates from 10 different candy kitchens around the country, which gives us a large variety of flavors,” he said. “We have over 100 flavors of chocolate.”

Bernie and Bonnie try hard to learn what customers want.

They attend candy shows in New York City and Philadelphia. They research the products.

Bernie makes it clear that not all chocolates are the same.

“We are very picky about our ingredients,” he said.

And those with discriminating tastes are certainly welcome at their shop.

He pointed to the shop’s display case that offers a view of all the candy selections.

“We are an old-fashioned mom and pop store where you can pick out one piece or as many pieces as you want and have them gift wrapped for free,” he said.

Patrons can also select from more than 50 flavors of tea.

There are sweet jams, specialty mustards and barbecue sauces too.

Like many business people, they have experimented over the years with different products.

Bernie recalled selling cotton candy for a time and also gourmet popcorn.

But it’s chocolate that remains the backbone of the business.

Bernie noted that he is always happy to allow customers to taste their offerings before making purchases.

“We always offer free samples for customers if they aren’t sure what they want,” he said.

Bonnie is the former owner of BK Puff ‘N Stuff, a stuffed balloon business. Bernie was an advertising man in New York City, who later had his own local ad agency.

Bonnie ran her enterprise in the Lycoming Mall, but longed to be in downtown Williamsport.

They eventually moved her business downtown, and it became the candy shop it is today.

“We have a lot of fun,” she said.

Over the years, they’ve come to know many of their patrons, many of whom stop by either to buy something or to just say hello.

“We always want to make sure our store is welcoming,” said Bonnie, a Williamsport City Councilwoman. “People say how pretty the store is. They love the smell of the chocolates.”

Bernie said the downtown location has been great for Le Chocolat, especially in recent years with more restaurants and hotels dotting center city and steering  people to their shop.

“You get a lot of tourist trade from the hotels,” he said.

The holiday season is a big time for Le Chocolat with many patrons looking to buy candy for gifts.

For now, Bernie and Bonnie plan on continuing to run the business for years to come — through all the seasons.

“We are not going anywhere,” Bonnie said.

Added Bernie: “We are here till God takes us away.”