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Chocolate company coming to Martinsburg

August 06, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A trip to downtown Martinsburg could stimulate a chocolate craving once DeFluri's Fine Chocolate starts production in the former 5 & 10 building this fall.

The Vienna, Va.-based company, which manufacturers a full line of American-style chocolates and European-style truffles, bought the building in December, said Brenda Casabona, who co-owns the business with her husband, Charlie Casabona.

Renovation of the building - estimated to cost about $130,000 - is more than half finished, said Brenda Casabona, who expects the combination chocolate factory/retail shop to open Oct. 1.

Only a portion of the front of the 11,000-square-foot building will be used for retailing the company's products, she said.

The rest will be dedicated to production, which Casabona expects will grow in the next few years as the 13-year-old company expands distribution of its chocolates outside the Washington, D.C., area.

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The company will recruit local workers, starting with four and adding more as production expands, she said.

How much they'll be paid hasn't been determined yet, but it will be above minimum wage, Casabona said.

The couple decided to move production from its Vienna facility after several years of labor supply problems, Casabona said.

They discovered Martinsburg while looking in the Winchester, Va., area, she said.

Martinsburg offered what they'd been searching the southeast for - a more available labor force, proximity to transportation routes, reasonable production costs, a business-friendly tax structure and a nicer lifestyle, Casabona said.

"We have not met one person who's not nice," she said.

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