Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory may have been a fictional place, but if you’re craving a similarly sweet experience, check out Raleigh’s Videri Chocolate Factory. Videri is the actualized dream of Sam Ratto, Starr Sink Ratto, and Chris Heavener. With what began as a passion for handcrafted bean-to-bar chocolate, Videri has become a main attraction in Raleigh thanks to the team’s commitment to “quality of product, friendly customer service, and social responsibility.”
Videri, located in the Raleigh Depot in the heart of the city, has a charming, industrial-era interior and design, and, of course, it smells like brownies: a fantastic aroma. The ownwers pride themselves on making a trip to their chocolate factory the “happiest and most exciting experience that a chocolate lover can have,” and I have to say, I loved my time there.
Videri Chocolate Factory is the kind of place you can easily chill at all day long. The factory offers free tours and allows you to wander through the factory floor itself to get a firsthand look at the chocolate-making magic from start to finish. With a charming retail space where you can sample chocolates, sip on hot chocolates and specialty coffee drinks, and peruse through endless amounts of chocolates and related swag, its welcoming, friendly atmosphere will keep you happy for hours on end.
Over chocolates and lattes, I sat down with Starr in Videri’s outdoor patio (which is BYOB, by the way), to talk about what life’s like at their chocolate factory.
Tell us a bit about your and your husband’s roles at Videri.
Starr Sink Ratto: All of our beans come from Central and South America. Sam has been to most of the farms and has met with the farmers themselves to learn more about their processes, beans… etc. It’s one of his favorite parts of the job. That, and the roasting of the beans, which is where so much of the flavor comes from. He has a passion for beans and the roast profile. My role at the chocolate factory is more of this (referencing our meeting). I make sure everyone is happy, feels at home, and is enjoying their time at Videri.
A chocolate factory is similar to a florist shop in that people are just happy to be here. It smells so good, and on days when Sam is roasting, the whole block smells like brownies. We want everyone who comes in to feel like this place is theirs; a secret little spot that they want to then show their friends. It’s really hard to be in a bad mood at a chocolate factory.
It’s clear that Raleigh is a lovely, friendly place. Does that translate in terms of how local businesses interact with one another?
This is our fifth year here. This community is using our chocolate, we’re using their coffee or this or that… I love Raleigh and this community, being a part of it. I’m originally from North Carolina, but after spending time in Los Angeles County, you realize this sort of camaraderie and support isn’t everywhere.
You don’t find that sort of embrace… It’s the feeling of, “I’m climbing a ladder and I’m going to try to pull you up with me — to boost you up.” Whereas, in other towns, it can be very me me me. Here, it’s about “us.”
Do you feel that a lot of this community does indeed collaborate with one another? Is this normal?
Everything here comes from local purveyors. For example, if you were to point out oysters at a seafood shack, you could easily find out that they are from so and so… and there she or he is! There is a personal relationship between the purveyors and the restaurants, bakeries, and bars that sell their products.
North Carolina is so agricultural. It’s cool to feel like you have so many friends. It’s awesome to see the culture of what people are doing here. We moved here right after the recession in 2009, and it was hard, very uncertain. However, when we moved here and we were like, the restaurants, bars, and movie theaters were full… Where’s the recession here? Everyone’s supporting each other in Raleigh and that’s made apparent every day.