How Sweet It Is

Chocolate. For most of us it’s an irresistible pleasure. But for Bill Sands, proprietor of Cincinnati-based Marble Hill Chocolatier (, it’s also a mouth-watering business developed from his love of fine food and entertaining.

The specialty retailer sells artisan chocolate, which goes beyond gourmet or even fine chocolate. “A chocolate is ‘artisan’ because of the type of cacao beans used and where they’re grown. But most importantly, artisan chocolates are made in small batches,” says Sands, which concentrates the flavor. Artisan chocolates are also visually appealing. In unique shapes and unusual colors, the confections mirror tiny artistic masterpieces. Each piece is crafted by hand.

Sands, a former IT marketing consultant for IBM, took the unusual step of educating his potential customer base by holding chocolate and wine tastings in stores, restaurants, and at private events over a two-year period. By 2005, he opened his boutique in Cincinnati’s trendy O’Bryonville section, an enclave of upscale specialty shops.

Sands, 44, sells truffles: round, handmade chocolates with a ganache, or filling–an emulsion of melted chocolate and cream infused with flavors and butter. He also sells bon bons: boxed chocolates with an outer coating, usually enrobing a fruity filling.