5th Avenue Chocolatiere
396 Rockaway Ave. Valley Stream, NY 516-561-1571
Whether it's Valentine's Day or another major holiday, one of the busiest chocolate shops on Long Island is certainly 5th Avenue Chocolatiere, whose sunny selling floor is crammed with hearts of milk, dark and white chocolate, beribboned with pink and red silk, inscribed with "I love you," and filled with yet more chocolate. President Joe Whaley said that any piece of chocolate large enough to be written on could be personalized for no extra charge. "If someone comes in and says, 'Put my husband's name on it,' we can usually do that in 15 or 20 minutes."
Whaley's Rockaway Avenue store is just the tip of his chocolate iceberg. Behind the retail area is 7,000 square feet of production space that supplies not only Valley Stream, but a midtown Manhattan store and scores of corporate clients. (The store produced life-size chocolate legs for Manolo Blahnik, chocolate MetroCards for New York's MTA.)
5th Avenue Chocolatiere was named for its first location, at 575 Fifth Ave., founded in 1973 by John Whaley. A second shop, on Madison Avenue, opened shortly thereafter, then a shop on Third Avenue, now the only one in Manhattan. From the beginning, the chocolates were produced in Long Island City.
John's son Joe took over the business in 1999, two years after he graduated from West Point. After 9/11, Joe served with the National Guard, but managed to stay in New York State. In March 2004, however, he was sent to Iraq for 20 months. During his absence, his father and his wife, Colleen, ran the business. When Joe returned, he bought a building in Valley Stream that could function as a factory, a retail location and a children's party space. The store opened for business in September 2009.
Most of 5th Avenue's confections are made with Callebaut chocolate. The exceptions are the white pieces; Whaley has found that Merckens' white chocolate has a richer taste and takes color better. Prices are reasonable, and are lower in Valley Stream than in the city. A box of 15 excellent cocoa-coated truffles sells for $17.50; a dozen dark-chocolate-covered pretzels are $15. -- Erica Marcus
Joe Whaley, president of 5th Avenue Chocolatiere in Valley Stream, displays some of the chocolate-shop's Valentine's Day wares. (Newsday Photo / Erica Marcus / Feb. 1, 2011)Hours: Mon. - Fri. 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sat. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sun. 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.