Nova Scotia

Syrian chocolatier opens factory in Antigonish

Assam Hadhad was once a successful chocolate maker in Damascus, Syria but he lost it all to war. Now he's picking up where he left off.

Assam Hadhad was once a successful chocolate maker in Damascus but he lost it all to war

Syrian refugee turns entrepreneur

7 years ago
Duration 2:16
The community of Antigonish, N.S., helps to launch chocolate maker Assam Hadhad's business in his new adoptive country

How sweet it is when a dream comes true. 

It's just that Assam Hadhad never thought it would happen in a tiny shed in Antigonish, N.S.

Seven months ago Hadhad was a desperate Syrian refugee and now he is the proud owner of Peace by Chocolate which is housed in that tiny shed.

As his son Tareq translates, a smile comes across Assam's face.

"He is saying it is a big happiness. Today is a happy day to have come this far in a short time," said Tareq Hadhad.

Picking up where he left off

Hadhad was once a successful chocolate maker in Damascus, Syria. 

He owned a factory there and employed 30 people. He shipped chocolates all over the Middle East, but he lost it all to war.

Assam Hadhad officially opened his chocolate factory in Antigonish, N.S. Wednesday. (Tom Murphy/CBC)

When he arrived in Canada he had little but a loving family and the community of Antigonish's welcoming arms. Hundreds of people helped them establish a home but Assam Hadhad wanted to contribute and continue his life's work.

"Work is life," Tareq Hadhad explains. "You interact with your new community and develop ideas and skills."

Giving back

So he set out to start a new chocolate factory in Nova Scotia. Volunteers in Antigonish helped build the tiny shed-turned-factory and they bought his chocolates at the local market and through special orders.

Assam Hadhad was a chocolate maker in Damascus before he lost everything to war. (Tom Murphy/CBC)

In turn, Hadhad donated profits to the victims of the Fort McMurray wildfires.

"Antigonish is a very caring, loving community. We embrace Syrians. I think for them it is a dream come true really and we are pleased this has happened," says long-time Antigonish resident Diane Roberts, one of 50 people who turned out for today's official opening.

Hadhad hopes to expand his company and eventually hire staff from the community. From refugee to entrepreneur, he says now he truly feels like he has arrived in Canada.

A sample of Peace by Chocolate's chocolate. (CBC)


Tom Murphy is co-host of CBC Nova Scotia's supper hour news program and correspondent for The National. He also hosts Land and Sea and is brother to Bob.