Nova Scotia

Syrian chocolatier family opens new factory in Antigonish

Peace By Chocolate plans to hire at least 10 more employees and employ refugees across Canada to distribute their chocolate.

Peace by Chocolate plans to hire 10 more employees and employ refugees from across Canada

Tareq Hadhad says the new facility is a huge step for his family's business. (Emma Davie/CBC)

It started as a dream to rebuild the family chocolate business.

That dream eventually grew into a tiny shop for Peace By Chocolate, based out of a shed in Antigonish, N.S.

But the Hadhad family didn't stop there — and Saturday afternoon they opened their very own, fully equipped chocolate factory.

More than 200 people gathered to tour the facility and celebrate with the family.

The Hadhad family hosted a grand opening event at their new factory in Antigonish. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Tareq Hadhad said his family has been overwhelmed by the support. 

"Without being in Antigonish, without being in this lovely community, really none of that could happen," he said. 

"It's been just amazing to see people just still coming. They're driving hours and hours from across the province to say congratulations."

He said opening the new factory is a huge step for the family's business. 

"Peace By Chocolate now is on the right track. What my family really wants is to have peace delivered to everybody."

'It's unbelievable'

Hadhad's father, Assam Hadhad, owned a successful chocolate business in Damascus, Syria, that employed 30 people and made shipments across the Middle East.

But the civil war brought an end to his business — and brought the Hadhad family to Canada.

Batoul Hadhad's father owned a successful chocolate business in Damascus, Syria. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Soon, the family began to make chocolates for the local market. Volunteers in Antigonish helped the Hadhads build their shed-turned-factory and the business exploded.

"It's unbelievable. It's really something beyond belief for me and my family," Hadhad said.

"This summer, thousands of people they drove and they came to Nova Scotia, they stopped by the family and they said hello and took pictures with them. You can't really imagine how heartwarming that was for my family."

Company to hire more employees

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about the family in a speech at the United Nations last year and even met with them in Sydney.

And just last week, Tareq Hadhad became a board member of Invest Nova Scotia.

Assam Hadhad officially opened his chocolate factory in this shed in August 2016. (Tom Murphy/CBC)

The Hadhads were financially independent by the time their one-year anniversary in Canada rolled around in January, and they began employing 10 people at their shed shop.

Now, Hadhad said they'll be employing at least 20 people at their new factory, which they've been building along Cloverville Road in Antigonish since the beginning of the year.

Hiring refugees across Canada for distribution

He also said once the factory is up and running, they'll be hiring refugees across the country to distribute their chocolate.

"We talked about the challenges they have been facing, mainly the language and the employment.… We started talking about hiring them in distribution," Hadhad said.

In addition chocolates, the Hadhad family also prepared Syrian food for everyone. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Hadhad said his father is still the main chocolate-maker, and is training and overseeing the new staff.

"The funny thing is, he's learning from the employees," Hadhad said chuckling, adding that his father has been picking up on the language from them.

"It means a lot for us as newcomers … It's very exciting times for us."

Hadhad said the town, friends and neighbours helped make the new factory a reality.

"There is something very special about being in Antigonish," he said.

"Peace By Chocolate may not tell the general story, but it tells the others what is possible. It tells other communities across the country what is possible when they come all together to support people who are fleeing war."