Cindy Pedraza Of CocoAndré Chocolatier Talks Family, The Challenges Of Running A Small Business And Creating Something Sweet Out Of A Bitter Situation.

Welcome to The Quickie, our new series featuring a short ‘n’ sweet, quick ”n’ dirty interview with a local small business owner, chef or creator that we think our readers should better know.

After the recession took Cindy Pedraza’s corporate job away in 2009, she found herself unemployed and looking for something new to do. She found it when her mother Andrea, a 25-year veteran of the chocolate business, was also laid off around that time.

Instead of admitting defeat, two women took their career hiccups as signs that they needed to start a businesses together around their interests. And thus was born CocoAndré Chocolatier, one of the Bishop Arts District’s  most-admired and thriving businesses.

Yes, Cindy and Andrea indeed made something sweet out of their bitter situation. In fact, their success has been so great that the pair traveled last year to the White House as part of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, where Andrea was featured as a panelist as part of a “Latinas in the Economy: The Spirit of Entrepreneurship in America” discussion.

These days, the mother and daughter are partnering with other brands to create designer chocolate bars, crafting new and interesting products, practicing community over competition and hosting events in their beyond-gorgeous Oak Cliff store.

If you don’t already know about CocoAndré Chocolatier, you should. The following Q&A will be a good start.

I know you’ve shared it a million times, but can you give me the CocoAndre backstory one more time? Where’d it come from? What’s your background? What made you decide to get in the chocolate business?
The saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” Well, in our case, we made chocolate. I was laid off from my job in 2009 and, shortly after that, my mother was laid off as well. Collectively, we both had about $3,000 saved. Being a project manager for a crane company, I worked in an office environment. My mother was working as a master chocolatier, running a full-size production line for one of the first chocolatiers in Dallas — that’s where her passion for chocolate began. My mother worked for that company for 25 years, but in my heart since I was eight, I always wanted us to own our own chocolatier. So that’s when we both came to the conclusion that we should open our own storefront and follow our dreams.

What might folks not know about your chocolate or about making chocolate in general?
We touch every piece of chocolate in the sense that everything we make is hand-crafted. We are very detailed-oriented, which at times can be a “bad” thing because we want to perfect everything we make; even when it may not make a huge difference to naked eye, we know. From the making of the chocolate to the labeling and packaging and everything else between, we want our customers to enjoy our chocolate in every aspect. We hear it so often that [our product] “is too pretty to eat,” which is an amazing and humbling statement to hear from customers.

It’s so true, though! Makes me wonder: Does chocolate consume your whole life? What do you cook at home?
Honestly, we don’t have much time to cook! My husband and I share the responsibility of cooking. But when I do get the chance to cook, I enjoy making traditional foods enchiladas and caldos (soups). We are trying to eat healthier, so it’s been fun converting traditional foods into vegan Mexican dishes. I’ve made my own cashew cheese, which my family enjoys — and, if you knew my family, you’d know they are hard to convince to try new foods. As for my mom, she makes an amazing green spicy spaghetti. But anything she makes is amazing; it’s just that everyone enjoys that dish. Oh, and a killer dark chocolate ganache cake!

What’d your favorite place to eat out in Dallas?
Our favorite go-to spot is El Rincon Tapatio here in Oak Cliff. The food is really good, quick and very affordable. We work late, and that’s usually the only place open when we work late nights. Lately, we’ve started a new routine and we go to Kula Revolving Sushi Bar in Carrollton. That’s the one place that we all can agree on every time, and it helps that my oldest usually picks up the bill. For a quick grown night out and late-night eats, we also go to Cedars Social. Our oldest is a bartender there, so it feels like we are home dining there.

What’s the latest, coolest, most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
Currently, we are working with a few local places, creating custom chocolate bars for them. Also, we are working with a local hotel designing a bar for them and their new coffee shop. So we really enjoy making custom orders — especially ones as unique as those. It really brings out our creative side. It can be time-consuming – meaning late nights at the shop – but, sometimes, those are the best and most fun nights for us being together and working as a family.

So what’s next for the women of CocoAndré?
We really don’t like to speak about the master plan(s). We just hope it takes off soon and we’ll be able to make the announcement!

Cover image courtesy of CocoAndré Chocolatier. Know another food business worth highlighting in this space? Message foodbitch! Like a good cover band, she takes requests.

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