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Haslett-based entrepreneur Konstantin “Konny” Zsigo hopes to make mid-Michigan a mecca for chocolate lovers with his new business, Park Lake Creamery. The gourmet chocolate and ice cream shop opened this week in Bath Township on the northeastern shore of Park Lake.
“It’s going to take me 10 years to get where I want to be, but I think people will eventually fly here for the chocolate,” Zsigo said. “There are stores in New York, France and Italy that have perfected chocolate making and attract visitors from around the globe. That’s what I aspire to do here.”
Zsigo, 52, has been honing the art of chocolate making for seven years, and he already has a loyal customer base thanks to Internet sales and local corporate accounts. He started the business as a hobby, importing 10-pound chocolate bars and teaching himself how to combine flavors, colors and textures into a wide range of confections. Then his hobby became a full-time passion two years ago after retiring from his longtime tech career.
“I’m passionate about technology and now I’m passionate about chocolate,” he said. “My process is half art and half science. I’m still learning, but I’ll be bringing the community along with me. Their feedback will help me master the craft.”
In 2016, Zsigo bought the building — previously home to the Kathy’s Pier Delight frozen custard stand — and converted the second floor into his personal chocolate factory. He said he uses the bare minimum of sugar in his recipes, which he combines with the best non-GMO, non-high fructose corn syrup chocolate bars he can find from France and Belgium. He melts the bars down into molds, often using an airbrush to decorate them. He crafts each one of his pieces by hand; some, including his cherry cordials, take up to four days to complete.
“You don’t pop five of these on your way to work,” Zsigo said. “These are chocolates that you sit down with and enjoy each bite of while you’re watching the sun set. They’re meant to eaten slowly.”
An early standout has been his coconut almond bars, an artisanal take on Almond Joy candy bars. Production includes adding ground roasted almonds to coconut flakes that have been seeped in sweet cream, then double dunking the results in dark chocolate, adding sea salted toasted almonds and drizzling in more chocolate.
“It took me a while, but I think it’s as good as it can be at this point,” Zsigo said. “It’s what an Almond Joy would be if they weren’t trying to mass produce them.”
Park Lake Creamery also features coffee drinks and specialty shakes, eight flavors of hand-packed, 16-percent butter fat ice cream from Country Dairy and two flavors of Moo-ville soft serve ice cream. The indoor dining area and sales floor is small — only about 500 square feet, accommodating about 15 people — but Zsigo said his production space upstairs is plenty big enough to keep up with all his foot traffic and online sales. And come summer, he plans to make full use of his patio overhanging Park Lake, including offering pontoon rides at sunset. And in the meantime, he’ll keep on practicing.
“Year after year, I’ll continue to work on new creations and keep improving,” he said. “Customers will see me get better, and as more people discover us, I hope word will get around.”
Park Lake Creamery 6320 Park Lake Road, Bath Township 11 a.m.-8 a.m. daily (hours later in summer) (517) 657-4400, parklakecreamery.com