One of our newest vendors, Nashville-based confections brand Colts Chocolate Co., was launched in 1984 by former HeeHaw star Mackenzie Colt. Since then, the company's handmade sweets have earned the affection of everyone from locals to celebrities (including Dolly Parton herself). We spoke with Colts' current president, Kate Blocher, to discuss the brand's evolution and future plans.
Local Palate Marketplace: We'd love it if you could share a brief history of the Colts Chocolate Co. brand.
Kate Blocher: In 1984, Mackenzie Colt left the HeeHaw stage for the stove and created Colts Chocolate Co., home to our iconic Colts Bolt and Salted Caramel Gooey Butter Bar. Her passion for creating unique, high-quality confections and desserts yielded not only National Chocolate Awards but won the praises of some of Nashville's most storied musicians. To this day, our products are handcrafted here in Nashville, and all of our recipes remain untouched from the original goodness. It is our hope here at Colts that we bring the same product that our customers fell in love with decades ago and combine that with a fresh look that will move us through decades to come.
LPM: How has the brand evolved since you became president in 2018?
KB: When I arrived in 2018, Colts did not have a cohesive brand. We had great products, but we lacked a true identity among our customers, and they weren't exactly sure if a product was made by us or not. In 2019, we gave all of our packaging a facelift so that everything had the same look and feel. We did that with unique product colors, product icons, and consistent packaging. We have seen a noticeable increase in customer recognition since the upgrade.
LPM: Could you tell us how and where Colts Chocolates are made nowadays? How has the process changed over the years?
KB: After spending 30 years in the area of town called the Gulch, the rising costs of real estate forced us to relocate to the Inglewood neighborhood in East Nashville in the fall of 2019. We remodeled a former Piggly Wiggly grocery and we have our factory as well a retail shop at this location—and plenty of parking! Our process has not changed since I arrived in 2018. However, Mackenzie was able to make some upgrades as her business grew that made a big difference in our efficiency and production capacities. We now have a commercial walk-in oven for all of our baked goods that allows us to keep up with the restaurant industry needs. We also have chocolate melting tanks and pumps that allow us to move more chocolate in a day. Tempering and crafting quality chocolate remains a trade talent, though, and our head chocolatier is one of the best! Although we have been able to upgrade some of our equipment, there is still a human or two on the other end of them.
LPM: What sets Colts Chocolates apart from other chocolate brands?
KB: I feel what sets us apart is taking ingredients and combinations that people love and creating a real quality product that is affordable at the same time. We lay eyes on every product that leaves our doors, and we are committed to creating something that you can depend on its quality every time. We love seeing the smiles that our products bring to our customers' faces!
LPM: We've heard Colts has some celebrity fans. Can you share a few with us?
KB: Ahhh, yes! Well, winning the praises of celebrities is what drove Mackenzie to start Colts as she would make her chocolates and desserts for the stars of HeeHaw! Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood, and even Ethel Kennedy have been known to order our chocolates!
LPM: What are some of the challenges Colts has faced, and how have you adapted?
KB: "Stay fluid" has been the name of the game since almost day one. We knew when we purchased Colts that we would need to move out of the Gulch within the year, but we were hit with construction delays and underlying zoning delays shortly after leaving. Just as we were catching our breath after moving in, several areas of Nashville were hit by the tornado. We were physically unscathed, but many of our community partners were not. Two weeks later, the world began shutting down for COVID-19. I am very fortunate to have some very steadfast team members. Some have been here for decades, and others are newer. But we could not have survived without them and their perseverance! There has been a lot of reinventing ourselves over this last year, in particular, and they have forged ahead in amazing ways. We just keep trying to do the next necessary thing!
KB: If you had to pick, what would be your favorite Colts treat?
LPM: Well, that is truly a tough question! It really depends on my mood and the season. My favorite confection is probably our Dark Chocolate Bumble Bee, which is our take on a classic turtle. Our use of rich salted caramel and roasted pecans makes ours unique! My favorite dessert is our White Chocolate Pecan Pie. I am a bit of a pecan pie connoisseur, and I've never had a better one—not even my grandmother's. We add white chocolate chips into the filling before we bake it, and as it melts during baking it creates this ultra-rich and creamy pie.
LPM: What's next for Colts? Anything we should look out for soon?
KB: Well, 2020 was very much a survival year for us, and we are really looking forward to 2021 being the year of introduction! We have several new products being tested now, and it has been a dream of mine since I came on board to create a space that was conducive to tours and small tasting events. Community is an extremely important part of who we have been and who we want to continue to be. Shipping our chocolate all over the world is an amazing thing, but we want to also be that place where you bring your kid to celebrate life's special moments. Not every neighborhood has a chocolate factory down the street—it's unique, fun, whimsical, and I want to share that with people!