Leroy Reynolds is a military veteran who offers a taste of Europe through his successful business.
In the movie Forrest Gump, Gump’s mother offers him this sage advice: “Life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get.” In Leroy Reynolds’ case, that’s exactly what life gave him.
Reynolds is the owner of Choicolate Artisan Chocolates in San Antonio, Texas. He and his wife, Krastina, a Bulgarian native, bought the established store in 2014 after researching new business opportunities. A U.S. Army veteran who served 22 years, Reynolds spent most of his military career in Europe, primarily in Germany. He says that upon his military retirement, he and Krastina explored the possibility of opening a small European café in the states, similar to those they frequented overseas.
“We settled in San Antonio, and I worked on the civilian side as inspector general for the Army’s Southern Regional Medical Command for a few years while we researched franchise and licensing opportunities,” Reynolds says. “But, we decided that wasn’t for us; we wanted more control over our business than a franchise would give us. Then, this chocolate shop opportunity presented itself, and we thought, ‘Why not?’ It seemed like a perfect fit for us.”
The Reynolds bought the business from a South Korean couple. Ironically, South Korea is where Leroy and Krastina met and married several years before when Leroy was stationed there and Krastina was working as an English tutor. The name, Choicolate (pronounced Choy-co-LAHT), is a play on the former owner and wife’s maiden name, Choi—a common Korean surname. The Reynolds liked the name and kept it when they took over the business.
Reynolds handles all aspects of business operations and marketing. He says that while he already had a bachelor’s degree in management and years of operations and marketing experience from his time in the military, it was the University of Phoenix MBA he earned in 2013 that improved his business acumen and “gave me the science to enhance the art of experience.”
“I use the knowledge I gained through my MBA education every single day—things like finance, process improvement, marketing and correct pricing model development,” he says. “Krastina handles the creative side of the business and has become the chocolatier, mastering the handcrafting techniques, creating recipes and designs and shaping the manufacturing operations.”
The business is thriving thanks to Reynolds’ due diligence and early research into the San Antonio market for the product.
“We’re the only artisan chocolate shop in the San Antonio area, and have found a niche among baby boomers—our primary buyers because of their disposal income—for our high-end truffles, toffee and other items made with natural ingredients and premium European chocolate,” Reynolds notes.
He adds that with any small business start-up, there are challenges to be expected. The main challenges Reynolds faced when launching the business operations were “regulatory entities and taxes—those two things are always going to be the most challenging for a small business because they vary by city and state. You’re on a learning curve, so you have to decide how to set up your business for what works best for you. We established ourselves as an LLC—limited liability company.”
And while there are other complexities to becoming an entrepreneur and owning your own business, Reynolds’ best advice to others considering it comes down to one word, “Dream!”
“Dream it and you can do it,” he emphasizes. “Every little success you have gives you confidence to take that next step. It shows you that your dreams are important and achievable. Your desire for success will lead you to success.”