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Hoffman's Chocolate opening on Las Olas Boulevard

Hoffman's Chocolate, the popular gourmet chocolate company that's been a Palm Beach County favorite for almost 40 years, is opening its first storefront in Broward County this fall.

The shop is expected to open around mid-September at 920 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale.

"We've enjoyed a long tradition in Palm Beach County, but think it's time to expand Hoffman's presence into Broward County and after that into Miami-Dade and across the state," said Jarett Levan, president of BBX Capital and BBX Sweet Holdings.

Hoffman's Chocolate opened its first store in Lake Worth in 1975 and has since grown to four stores in Palm Beach County, one in Martin County and a widely popular chocolate factory in Greenacres visited by thousands of people each year.

BBX Sweet Holdings, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fort Lauderdale-based BBX Capital, bought Hoffman's last year.

Hoffman's has created a loyal following over the years for its hand-made sweets and December holiday displays at the chocolate factory. On average, more than 20,000 customers visit the factory over the holidays, Levan said.

This year, Hoffman's coveted chocolates were also included in the official gift bag given to celebrity presenters and other A-listers at the MTV Movie Awards.

Levan said they plan on opening another Hoffman's in west Broward County by the end of the year, but could not provide more details.

In Fort Lauderdale, Hoffman's will be taking over the space once occupied by UdderSweets, which sold chocolate, ice cream and candy. The new shop also will be just a block east of Kilwin's, another chocolate store that's been on Las Olas Boulevard for almost 20 years.

"Las Olas is a natural place to open a new Hoffman's location," said Levan, adding that it will cater to tourists, daytime professionals who work in the area and locals who go out to Las Olas at night.

Hoffman's makes more than 70 different confections. The new store will include fan favorites, such as chocolate covered pretzels and coconut cashew crunch. It will also sell ice cream and seasonal gift baskets.

Hoffman's isn't the only chocolate company BBX Sweet Holdings has acquired lately.

In recent months, it's also bought two other chocolate companies in California and Williams & Bennett in Boynton Beach.

"We've built a pretty nice and growing platform in the chocolate business," Levan said. "Our strategy is to acquire some of the smaller companies, maintain their recipes and brand and use expertise and capital to make them bigger and better."

BBX Sweet Holdings is diving into a growing industry.

Retail chocolate sales increased 24 percent nationwide from 2008 to 2013 to reach $20 billion, according to Mintel, a market research company. The firm forecasts sales will grow another 14 percent from 2013 to 2018.

"Everyone loves chocolate," Levan said. "Whether you're receiving chocolate, giving chocolate, it just makes people happy."

mvalverde@tribune.com, 954-356-4526954-356-4526, Twitter @MiriamValverde

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