Air-brushed chocolates don’t just happen.
At Coffee & Chocolate, which opened in Powell at 3531 W. Emory Road in November, it comes from a French-Canadian chocolatier who lives in Indiana.
Sharif Harb wants nothing but the best for his business.
“I believe that people will pay a little extra for a quality product,” said Harb, a 1995 Central High School graduate. “We go out of our way to use quality products for what we make.”
What Harb and his staff make − from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week − is coffee and chocolate.
“Those were two of my favorite things,” Harb said. “The name was easy to come up with. Who isn’t going to stop in and give our coffee and chocolate a try?”
Customers have a choice of single-orchard coffees: Guatemalan (a medium, flavorful blend), Ethiopian (medium, smaller bean) or Sumatra (dark roast).
‘I could do it better’
Harb grew up in a house loaded with entrepreneurs. At 11, he opened a baseball card shop inside his father’s North Knoxville deli. For two decades, his dad operated Harby’s Pizza on Broadway.
“My dad was there every day, all day,” Harb said. “I’ve found that trust (in your employees) is important. It’s not that hard for me.”
The 46-year-old graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville with a degree in psychology. He decided to go the business route rather than pursuing his doctorate degree.
Shortly after college, he opened a wholesale vegan bakery that serviced 50 stores all over the country.
After about two years, packaging − styrofoam coolers and ice packs − became too expensive. He was forced to shut down that first business and pivot to something else.
“I try to see something and figure out how I could do it better,” Harb said of his philosophy as an entrepreneur. “Veganism was not that big (around 2000). I thought I could do it.”
Betting on Powell
Coffee and chocolate being two of Harb’s favorite things, he felt that combining the two would be a no-brainer.
He bet on downtown Knoxville, which was just starting to come alive in 2006, being somewhere that could generate a solid customer base.
It has paid off with a very loyal clientele at 327 Union Ave.
Harb has rolled the dice the same way on Powell.
“This area is growing a lot,” Harb said. “Belltown (neighborhood) will add so many people. Powell is going to be huge.
“We’ve been so impressed with how welcoming and how nice the people of Powell have been. They’ve made us feel like part of the community.”
Besides the varieties of coffee, boxes of chocolates with different fillings are available along with macarons. There’s also a bacon, egg and cheese waffle sandwich that can brighten up the mornings as well as muffins and other baked goods.
“The most important lesson I’ve learned over the years is to hire people who know more than I do,” said Harb. “I feel pretty good that I’ve done that. We have some great people here. We’ve got a great staff, which makes this such a nice place to be.”