Tareq Hadhad’s family chocolate business in Syria was destroyed by war – and the family itself was uprooted from its homeland. Now in Canada, Hadhad is starting over.
For many people, a life filled with chocolate would be a dream come true. For Tareq Hadhad, chocolate was more than a dream. It was his family’s livelihood. When he was a boy growing up in Syria, he would watch his father make delicious treats to share with the whole community.
The family opened its original factory in Damascus in 1985. Life was peaceful until a bombing raid in 2012 destroyed the business. For the next three years, uncertain of their future in Syria, Hadhad and his family relocated to a refugee camp.
“Our lives had been forever altered and we dreamed of returning to the lives we loved. When our family was invited into Canada and became full Canadian citizens, our dreams came true,” explains Hadhad.
Once established in Nova Scotia, he rebuilt the family business, naming it Peace By Chocolate, with a store in Halifax and a factory in Antigonish.
Hadhad’s approach of blending influences from Syria and Canada has led to an unexpected, but welcomed, success.
“We came here with all of the knowledge, skills and recipes that we had been making in Syria for the past 35 years,” he says. “We are now mixing those traditions with Canadian culture by creating chocolates shaped like maple leaves or including maple syrup in some recipes.”
Hadhad explains that the company name, Peace by Chocolate, reflects the multicultural country of Canada. With each chocolate treat sold, he hopes to spread the word of peace and inclusion across the nation.
“Peace is the most noble value. And also chocolate is the product of happiness — the magical product of happiness.”
Website adds extra richness
For the company’s first three months, Peace By Chocolate operated out of a single Halifax store. As word spread and demand increased, Hadhad knew it was time for the business to start a website, allowing it to sell to anyone, anywhere.
“Moving our business online helped a lot. It gave us publicity and it gave us credibility,” he says.
More than a business tool, the Peace by Chocolate website is a vehicle for telling Hadhad’s family story and showing refugees that they, too, can succeed in Canada.
“Peace by Chocolate helps confirm the resilience and determination of entrepreneurs and shows them that they can restart anywhere,” says Hadhad.
With plans to expand to the United States and the United Kingdom, the company may come to rely on technology even more. Hadhad says Peace By Chocolate is in the process of implementing technologies to enable international payments. And in the future, the company is looking to launch an app to attract even more customers, as well as spread the Hadhad family’s story of resilience, opportunity and new beginnings.