Sweet on Center: The Vermont Truffle Company at Five Years
by Lauren Fabian | February 12th, 2019
In the heart of Downtown Rutland, you can smell the chocolate as soon as you walk through the door of the Vermont Truffle Company. Since opening their small town business five years ago, Steve and Anna Montanez have produced big results.
As college sweethearts, they met at Johnson and Wales in Providence, Rhode Island. Steve was studying baking and pastry, while Anna focused on her degree in hospitality management. Together, they developed the perfect blend of experience to open their own business. Anna was born and raised in Rutland, Vermont, and after having moved to Florida for a year, they decided to move back to Anna’s hometown.
The Vermont Truffle Company did not always operate from the shop in downtown, as it started as an extracurricular activity in Steve and Anna’s kitchen.
“I was home, didn’t have any kids and I wanted to play around and see what I could come up with. I loved my chocolate classes back in school so I figured well why don’t I do something with chocolate and maple syrup,” explained Montanez.
Three months later, they had the recipe now used in their popular Vermont Maple Truffles. The couple bought some basic chocolate making equipment and built their own mini tempering machine, which is what helps transform the chocolate into the final product.
Then they brought their homemade truffles to family, friends and parties, and people enjoyed them so much they suggested the couple sell them. Starting with a booth at the Rutland farmers market, they developed more flavors and began selling their truffles to locals in the community.
Their product grew more attention as popular restaurants and retail stores wanted to purchase the truffles. The couple looked into retail packaging and food labeling laws, and started packing them up and selling them to local venues.
The couple ran the company out of their basement for another year before they decided to make the next big move. When the building at 37 Center Street went on the market, they called their realtor and put an offer on the property that same day. They closed on the property a month later, and the Vermont Truffle Company opened its doors in 2014, where it remains a popular business in Downtown Rutland today.
Steve and Anna now work in their retail store making chocolate as well as raising their two children, continuing to find a balance between business and family. According to Montanez, although it can present it’s challenges, both their families provide a great support system for the couple that has allowed them to be successful in their endeavors.
The Vermont Truffle Company makes about 15 to 20 thousand truffles a month, and has up to 24 different flavors, depending on the season, with the Vermont maple truffle being the most popular. Business is balanced between retail and wholesale, but many may be unaware of large amount of production that happens in addition to their retail sales.
“We ship orders to New York City restaurants, hotels, wineries, and as well as custom corporate orders. For example, right now we’re doing a large order for a winery in Pennsylvania, where they send us their wine and we custom make chocolates for them packaged with their logos,” said Montanez.
The business on Center Street also sees a good amount of foot traffic in their downtown location, according to the couple.
“Our walk in traffic in downtown has been fantastic. Every year we see at least a 50% growth of walk in traffic into the retail store. People don’t realize that Vermont is a pretty heavy tourist destination almost all year round, it’s heavier during the winter but still very good during the spring, summer and fall,” Montanez said.
Steve and Anna say they face the normal challenges of running a business, similar to any other, but enjoy the benefits that the community provides.
“One of the greatest rewards is having the flexibility to do what you want to do. We’re in a great state and a great area. We have a wonderful community that is very supportive of local business, that honestly, I don’t think we’d be here without,” said Montanez.