Megan Hile is no longer in the shadows of Madison’s growing chocolate scene.
She started in her home kitchen in 2010, began commercial production in 2012 in rented space at RP’s Pasta, and then moved the operation in 2014 to FEED Kitchens on the North Side, where she produced chocolates to fill online orders and shares in her community-supported chocolate program.
The latest move for Hile is intended to be more permanent.
Hile, 42, now has 1,100 square feet of her own space for her Madison Chocolate Co., which offers up hand-made chocolates, includes a “chocolate library” stocked with bars from chocolatiers from around the world and serves up coffee from Madison roaster Kin Kin. The 18-seat shop at 729 Glenway St., in the lower level of an apartment building across from Gates & Brovi restaurant, also has views of the UW Arboretum, is becoming popular for residents of the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood and is separated from Monroe Street’s main, more crowded business districts.
“I didn’t know that this was always my dream, but what’s really important to me is to support craft chocolate and craft confections,” said Hile, who has consulted with other companies, helped run a chocolate festival in Seattle and spent time learning about chocolate in Ecuador. “This neighborhood is really important to me. My son was born just up the hill. I haven’t really left this neighborhood in 16 years, and I’ve seen this corner change a lot. It’s quiet, but now it’s a little bit more urban.”
Hile initially thought of opening her shop on North Sherman Avenue but began serious talks on the Glenway Street space in May 2016. The space includes a 400-square-foot production kitchen with a $15,000 continual tempering machine used to coat chocolate, a guitar slicer to cut slabs of ganache, and a caramel machine.
The cafe portion of the business is colorfully decorated with stained concrete flooring, pastel walls and wood accents. The truffle cabinet was hand-made from birch by her partner Jamie Stanek, who owns Artisan Design & Fabrication in Black Earth. Other wood trim includes walnut and ash. Cherry pocket doors with windows salvaged from an 1880s home in Fort Atkinson are usually closed but can be opened to provide views into the kitchen during tastings, classes and other special events.
“This really was a labor of love,” said Hile, who doesn’t see other chocolate shops in the city as competition. “I really think we all offer something different. Not every coffee roaster is the same and not every chocolatier is the same. We all use different ingredients. We all have a different passion. We’re all different chefs in our kitchen.”
On a recent visit, just a few days after the shop’s opening on Saturday, the truffle case included trays and platters of sea salt caramels, truffles with Askinosie cocoa powder sourced from the Philippines, ghost pepper caramels, butter bourbon caramels and berry bark, made with strawberries, raspberries and white chocolate.
Hile hopes to soon begin selling hand pies and pastries that, like all of her chocolates, will be gluten-free. She also has a freezer where she will sell pints and small cups of ice cream from Ohio-based Jeni’s.
Hile has five employees, four of whom were just hired to help produce chocolate and staff the retail counter and coffee bar.
Bridget Dodge, 24, began working with Hile in 2014 and calls her a passionate visionary.
“Sometimes dreamers aren’t able to actualize what they see,” Dodge said. “But she’s one who has been able to verbalize what she sees and desires, and I feel like it’s really manifested in this space. It’s really cool to see.”
“This neighborhood is really important to me. My son was born just up the hill. I haven’t really left this neighborhood in 16 years …” MEGAN HILE, owner of Madison Chocolate Co.