Utah's 'Little Chocolatiers' family facing foreclosure
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One customer has promised to buy hot chocolate whenever she can. Others — more than 100, maybe — have made the shop a routine stop since finding out about its hardships during the past three years.

A little help is the only hope for Hatch Family Chocolates, which announced this week on Facebook that they're seeking investors, donations or even just some new ideas after struggling since a move to a new Avenues location.

Owned by Katie Masterson and Steve Hatch, the shop opened 10 years ago at 390 E. 4th Avenue and relocated in 2010, buying the 8th Avenue grocery at 376 8th Avenue. Profits still have not caught up to the debts incurred by that move, and the 90-day foreclosure process began Tuesday.

Masterson said that although it's difficult for her to ask, they now require some degree of assistance.

"We're just trying," she said. "It's not that we can't fix it. We have hope."

They started the business using recipes passed down from Hatch's grandmother, Hazel Hatch Kaiser, who became a chocolate dipper nearly 100 years ago. The shop was featured on TLC's "The Little Chocolatiers" in 2010, focusing on the pair's efforts to meet deadlines while coexisting both as a married couple and business partners.

"We saved every penny that we could from that show," Hatch said. "We did need to expand, and there weren't a lot of buildings. We believed in this neighborhood."

But the purchase of 8th Avenue building brought about tough times. After more than a year paying the full loan amount while restaurants sought new spaces in the City Creek Center and vacated spots at The Gateway, they recruited Avenues Proper & Publick House to lease some of the space, but by that point, it was too late.

The economy continued to sour. Hatch and Masterson, who were married, split up — "We became better business partners and friends than husband and wife," Hatch explains.

Now they need $150,000 before Jan. 1, 2014 or the building and business will be foreclosed. They need money, but they want to do business with "like-minded" people, Hatch said.

"We don't want people to just buy our building and put a condo in there."

Hatch said they need new revenue sources and that one possibility is to pint ice cream for sale in Harmon's and Dan's. Unlike hand-dipped chocolates, ice cream can be mass produced with current human resources. They might also be able to wholesale their cookies. But for most grand plans, they need capital, and that's hard to come by right now.

Hatch said the experience has been an eye-opener. His Facebook post might not amount to much, but he said he's not sure that potential investors and buyers understand the hardships that well-loved businesses like his might be facing. "I think there's this perception that if you're a famous or well-known business, that you're not struggling."

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper