WINTER PARK – A new jewel has taken its place in the crown that is Winter Park’s Park Avenue. But what you’ll find at 552 S. Park Ave. isn’t a posh clothing boutique or an upscale jeweler. AJ Chocolate House is much, much richer than that.
In more than 2,200 square feet at the corner of Park Avenue and Fairbanks, Lithuanian owners Edwin and Katherine Jablonskas offer every kind of Belgian chocolate imaginable from dreamy chocolate and raspberry truffles to velvety chocolate European cheese cups and decadent cakes and desserts to smooth solid chocolate bars wrapped in edible gold. To complement the more than 150 varieties of delectable confections priced at a reasonable $2.50 each, the shop also offers fine European wines, hot chocolate, and Italian coffee.
“A family in Italy roasts this coffee specifically for us,” Jablonskas explained, “and you can ask to have our coffee prepared any way you want it: regular, latte or cappuccino and you will see its perfection served in a real cup and saucer.”
The first of its kind in the U.S., AJ Chocolate House opened in Winter Park August 3 to crowds every weekend. Initially with a staff of 15, the steady stream of patrons led them to hire four more in mid-September. “The only ‘advertising’ we did was just to be here, and we have been completely packed every weekend,” said Edwin Jablonskas.
The company began in 2002 in Lithuania. Edwin and his father – Algimantas “A.J.” Jablonskas –opened the first AJ Chocolate Houses in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Since the flagship location opened in Lithuania’s capitol, 25 other AJ Chocolate Houses have opened across Lithuania and Latvia, and one is opening in Norway this month. Jablonskas said his goal is to open a second and third location in Florida, with one large enough – perhaps 5,000 square feet – to also include a chocolate museum and enough space for the make-your-own-chocolate parties that are popular in Europe.
With pleasing music, cozy chairs and couches with soft pillows, AJ Chocolate House offers a peaceful place to come for coffee and a chocolate or a Brussels waffle with chocolate sauce to boost your metabolism before starting the day, or a relaxing dessert and wine stop after dining at one of Park Avenue’s eateries. Some conduct business meetings in the soothing atmosphere, while others bring a date for fun chocolate fondue.
Patrons can peruse what seems like miles of custom-made European mahogany cabinetry that offers sparkling climate-controlled glass cases brimming with endless displays of chocolates. Shelves on one wall show off their selection of chocolate gifts, which AJ Chocolate House is known for internationally.
A large part of AJ Chocolate House’s business is corporate gifts, which can have company logos placed on boxes and or the individual chocolates. “We have been doing this in Europe for years, but it’s just beginning in the U.S.,” Jablonskas said. “The Lithuanian Parliament alone orders 50,000 boxes of our chocolates and they go to all heads of state and delegations around the world.” Special orders usually take six to eight weeks.
Throughout Europe AJ Chocolates can be found in restaurants and hotel gift shops, and some hotels put the chocolates on guests’ pillows, he said.
The Winter Park location was abandoned for several years, having been home to a jeweler and later a coffee shop for a few weeks. When Jablonskas found the space, it was quite bare. He said he invested more than expected to achieve its elegant look today.”
Markus Lorscher, general manager of the Peruvian restaurant a few doors down, “Mares Real Peruvian Cuisine,” agrees, “The new chocolate house is the cherry on top of Park Avenue.”
When someone needs a gift, they always think chocolate because when you give a box of chocolates, they are happy to get it and they remember who gave it to them.”
AJ Chocolate House is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. For more information, visit https://.AJChocolate.com.
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For more information, please contact:
Edwin Jablonskas, Co-Owner, AJ Chocolate House, 689-500-9999 or email@example.com.
Beth Payan, Larry Vershel Communications, 407-461-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.