A celebration is defined as the action of marking one’s pleasure at an important event or occasion. This can be a milestone birthday, a significant anniversary or even a career accomplishment. No matter the occasion, a grand celebration can always be elevated by incorporating two items: Champagne and chocolate. So why not combine the two into one delightful mouthful of delicious goodness that’s shaped like a cork. That’s exactly what Joel and Kharye Davis did with Le Dome Champagne Truffles.
They say everything happens for a reason, but no one could predict the chance meeting of Joel, who is from St. Louis, Missouri and Kharye, a native of San Diego, California. It happened on the campus of the University of Central Missouri in 1978. While dating, they realized they both had an interest in the import-export business. They fell in love in college, were married three years later, and lived a happy married life in numerous places across the U.S. These places included Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, where no cars are allowed and an Indian reservation. They eventually settled in a suburban residential desert area outside of Palm Springs, California.
The Davises’ career paths may not have been as eclectic as their living locations, but they were undoubtedly on the road to being successful entrepreneurs. Joel has experience in sales and advertising, while Kharye’s resume includes fashion and retail. The knowledge and skills they gained from these work experiences were instrumental in fueling their future family business. They soon realized a traditional work life wasn’t their cup of tea. This was the spark that led to the truffle.
Joel and Kharye launched their first business endeavor in 1984. “We sold fresh, individually packaged garden salads to 7-11,” says Kharye. They lived in San Diego at the time. The salads were produced in their home and sold to several stores in the western states. Unfortunately, this business folded a year later.
At the time, Joel worked for a distributor of 7-11. “The salad business was interfering with my regular job,” Joel shares. But that didn’t stop them. The couple took what they learned from their salad business, paired it with their college dream and started their own import-export business. It was the perfect time as the free trade agreement between the United States and Canada was newly formed.
It was 1989 and the Davises were new residents on the Lummi Indian Reservation in Washington State. They quickly landed several brokering clients, having immediate success with the chocolate company they represented. “Within two months, we managed to land a $1 million order with Trader Joe’s,” says Kharye, who celebrated 39 years of marriage with Joel this past Valentine’s Day. “And we never looked back,” Joel adds.
After several successful years, they sought a new challenge. With enhanced product development skills under their belts, they decided to seek a licensing deal with Korbel Champagne. They created an entire Champagne chocolate collection leading up to the 1999 New Year’s Eve millennium celebration. The result of this creation was the birth of their signature product, the truffle cork. 2000 marked the beginning of Le Dome Champagne Truffles.
Now in their 20th year, Le Dome Champagne Truffles are made from the finest French and Belgian chocolate, which is infused with non-alcoholic Champagne essence. Kharye shares that they had to go on a short hiatus recently to restructure their operations and business model to now include owning a factory where the chocolate will be produced. Also, when they relaunch later this spring, the products will be produced under the new name, Le Dome Celebration Champagne Truffles, emphasizing their philosophy of celebrating life. In the past, they received requests to place the truffles in the Oscar gift bags and had to turn them down due to production issues. Going forward, it could be a possibility.
In addition to keeping production 100 percent in-house, sales will all be online with shipping nationally. International orders will be accepted and shipped in the future. “We want the business to be a legacy piece, like Hershey,” says Kharye. Now a team of four that includes Kharye’s brother and his girlfriend, the new business model will follow a specific process for production, packaging and shipping. “We use machines to temper the chocolate, but the various additional details required to create these specialized truffles are all done by hand in small batches,” Joel says. Once orders resume, selections range from a 4-piece set for $20, 9 pieces for $45 and 25 pieces for $125.
The lessons here? Follow your dream, follow your heart, and remember the wise words of Forest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” In this case, it’s like a little golden box of Champagne chocolate truffles.
The Davises are also writing a book that will be released later this year about their entrepreneurial journey over the years. Be sure to follow them online and on social media for more updates.