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Greater Tulsa Reporter


Brady Chocolatier Offers ‘Food Of The Gods’

By CHARLES CANTRELL
Associate Editor

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF ARTISAN CHOCOLATE: Beware and be prepared to stay a while once you enter Tulsa’s own artisan chocolate shop. It’s not easy choosing what you want. But there’s always someone there, including store owner Bill Copeland, above, to help find your chocolate bliss.


CHARLES CANTRELL for GTR Newspapers


Editor’s note: GTR Newspapers is pleased to present a monthly column focusing on the unheralded enterprises and initiatives of all the resourceful, creative folks in and around Tulsa and the region. We will feature articles that explore the diverse ways innovative and successful people contribute their talents and ideas to make the Greater Tulsa community vibrant and second-to-none for quality of life.

When you walk in the door, the first thing to hit you is the rich aroma of fresh chocolate wafting in the air waiting to grab your sense of smell. Next your eyes marvel at the display of brightly colored morsels parading as works of art. Or are they works of art parading as candy? It doesn’t matter, it’s too late to escape because your nose and eyes have put your taste buds on high alert and you are trapped in Glacier Confection, the locally-owned, little candy store/factory in the heart of the Brady Arts District at 15 E. Brady. What follows for most is several moments of indecision, selecting from a kaleidoscope of creations, handmade with meticulous care, patience, skill and artistry on site by Bill Copeland, CCO (Chief Chocolate Officer), shop owner, artisan chocolatier extraordinaire and Oklahoma’s very own Willy Wonka. When you finally leave the shop feeling you have had an experience out of the ordinary, something wonderfully different, you have made the owner very happy.

“Three years ago when we opened, the goal was for everyone who came in to experience something they’d never experienced before. We wanted to cultivate clientele who appreciate craftsmanship and artistry and of course love chocolate. We also wanted to be part of the revival of this part of downtown and fit into the Brady Arts’ culture by providing locally produced, artistic products. So far we’ve feel we’ve succeeded and we’ve got more ideas ahead,” says Copeland.

His career path began in the military with stopovers in corporate America, employed by companies like Kodak and Litton Industries, where he explored many work venues including film technology, graphic design and digital imaging. Copeland easily qualifies as one of those modern day renaissance men we often hear about. He is someone who fits into any number of corporate niches. So how did he end up in Tulsa, and achieve preeminent ranking as one of the top ten artisan chocolatiers in North America in 2012 according to Dessert Professionals Magazine?

Ending up in Tulsa can be attributed to his wife Cynthia Calvert-Copeland who grew up here and is an entrepreneur in her own right running a successful packaging company. Located in Tulsa, Professional Images, Inc. provides custom designed boxes to national clientele and creates the beautiful presentation packaging for all Glacier Confection products. Copeland was drawn to the Brady Arts District because it reminded him of the renaissance of his hometown of Providence, R.I.

“The parallels between what happened in Providence and what is underway here in Tulsa in the Brady District is unmistakable – young people from all walks of life are drawn to the energy and excitement that comes from the right kind of inner-city restoration. It happened awhile back in Providence, and it’s happening now in Tulsa. People, especially young people, are looking for a vibrant community offering new and unique things and that is what we’re doing along with the other artisans in Brady.”

“I love everything there is about cacao,” says Copeland. “The environment, the process, the creativity, health benefits and the delight it brings to individuals and their palates. I believe chocolate needs to be cared for, developed through experimentation with no fear of failure.”

It was during Copeland’s travels visiting small artisan chocolate shops throughout Europe and observing how established these small, creative enterprises are in the communities they serve that got him thinking. Along with developing a discerning palate for the variety of flavor profiles possible with quality, hand-crafted chocolate, he saw how these shops enhance quality of life for young and old and was confident such a retail model could work in the United States.

“Over the years, I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to interface with many individuals who have made the chocolate business their passion and their life’s work. Watching these individuals find true happiness through their work was an inspiration for me. I had never witnessed so many people loving their work. I was hooked,” he says.

The visual array of creations on display in the glass cases is testament to Copeland’s dedication to perfection, his artistic eye and honed skills. But as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. One bite of a truffle, one nibble into a salted pecan turtle, one surprising burst of taste coming from a creamy filling flavored with either blood orange, key lime, caramel, tiramisu, passion fruit, cream de menthe, habanero pepper, wild honey, red wine or any number of all-natural flavors encased in a rich dark, milk or white chocolate shell, and you know you’re into something special.

That special something comes primarily from processing chocolate on site in small batches using very little machinery. The kind of chocolate creations offered by Glacier require time, patience, high quality ingredients and skill to melt down cacao bars or wafers bringing them to the exact temperature to achieve the proper “crystallization stage” and produce a premium chocolate with a distinct snap, sheen and fresh flavor profile. This is not a chocolate created in large quantities by automation, extended with wax, frozen for months, shipped across the country, stored in warehouses for weeks and left to sit on grocery shelves for who knows how long. Glacier chocolate is different and special in the same way fresh brewed beer or homemade bread is special. It simply tastes better.

Copeland is not about to rest on his laurels. He has plans to grow the business in ways he feels will address customers’ interests regarding handcrafted chocolate. He envisions a more interactive shop where chocolate aficionados can learn about the “bean to bar” process required to make quality chocolate treats. And where they can have a hands-on experience enabling them to make their own creation using the infinite possibilities of what 17th Century Europeans called, “the food of the gods.”

High on the wall above the door to the little chocolate factory in the back of Glacier is a flat screen television playing “Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory” 24/7. It’s playing to remind everyone that chocolate is magical fun, and Glacier Confection is about as chocolaty and magical as it gets.

For more information, visit www.glacierconfection.com.

Updated 01-28-2013

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