TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Two brothers originally from New York are bringing a taste of the Hamptons to Tampa and Sparkman Wharf, all while still attending the University of Tampa.
Grant and Austin Gappelberg grew up alongside Hampton Chocolate Factory, a business their father began, full of decadent desserts and artisan chocolates.
The company was started eight years ago, when Grant was 11 years old and Austin was 13. They spent their time going to trade shows and farmers markets and were there when the first Hampton Chocolate Factory store opened.
“I wasn’t hanging out with friends on weekends, I was in the store working. Same with Austin. We’ve been in it since the start,” said Grant.
The brothers decided to go to college in Florida. Here in Tampa, they saw what they said was the “perfect opportunity” to open a store in Tampa.
They got the idea about six months ago when Austin, who is in his senior year of college at UT, started thinking about what he was going to do after graduating. The brothers thought, why not bring the family business here? They found a location at Sparkman Wharf through a real estate agent and said it’s one of the best decisions they’ve ever made.
Hampton Chocolate Factory has been open since the beginning of the year.
“So opening in January, we did not know what to expect. But people started flowing through the door, even without any signage, people were flowing through the door because at The Hampton Chocolate Factory, we deliver something that you’ve never seen before,” said Austin. “Everything that we do in here is just a little bit different.”
The store sells “decadent desserts and artisan chocolates.” Some of those desserts include ice cream sandwiches dipped in chocolate, frozen s’mores, milkshakes, chocolate-dipped Belgian waffles and Belgian waffle ice cream sandwiches, chocolate-dipped marshmallow pops and more.
They also sell artisan chocolate by the piece at their store. Hampton Chocolate Factory has gift boxes of their luxury chocolates for gifts, or for corporations and businesses for their clients, too.
Even prior to their grand opening on Friday, Austin said the Sparkman Wharf store has already been successful.
“We’ve gotten busier and busier as the weeks have gone on, and finally, our main signage is in, and that’s why we’re doing our grand opening tomorrow, April 22 at 4 p.m. and that’s really the official start of The Hampton Chocolate Factory in Tampa and we’re excited,” he said.
It’s not all ice cream sandwiches and molten chocolate lava shots for the brothers, however. They’re still working through school in addition to running Hampton Chocolate Factory’s Tampa location themselves.
“Every waking hour I’m either doing some school work or I’m here working. For the first three months of opening there were no breaks. None,” said Grant. “I’m here until 3 a.m. a couple nights out of the week and I go to class, come back, straight to the store, back to work. It’s a fun lifestyle.”
Austin said he is using college as a resource and a place to network.
“I’ve chosen to work on the Hampton Chocolate Factory as my school project so, while I’m in school, I’m really working on the business and it’s benefitting me in both ways and it’s really been a time management balancing act,” he said.
He said it’s been a journey.
“Not an easy journey, but a journey and we’re making it through. We’re doing our best,” Austin said.
Hampton Chocolate Factory’s grand opening event will take place Friday at Sparkman Wharf starting at 4 p.m. Guests will receive free s’mores from the store, one of their signature decadent desserts.