NJMOMpreneur: Alison Nelson, Chocolate Bar


New Jersey is home to many ambitious and talented women who juggle family, career, and home.  A select few of these women are also extremely busy building their own companies and managing the balance between work and home life. At NJMOM, we want to highlight these extraordinary women who build NJ businesses, and learn the secret to their success.

Chocolate Bar Owner and NJ MOMpreneur: Alison Nelson

Alison Nelson is the NJMOMpreneur and owner of Chocolate Bar, founded in 2002 in lower Manhattan’s West Village. Today, Chocolate Bar has over 20 locations across the globe including Dubai, Australia, and Qatar.  Since the inception of her business, Alison made her way down to the Jersey Shore to open Chocolate Bar in Manasquan, where she now resides with her family. The anticipated opening of the new headquarter store in downtown Asbury Park will feature a full cafe, along with the beloved truffles, hot chocolates, espresso, baked goods, and vegan treats the world has grown to love and crave. NJMOM had the pleasure of speaking with Alison about her journey as a mother and successful business owner, the advice that helped bring her to where she is now, and the joys that come with raising her two children.


Alison Nelson, Owner of Chocolate Bar

NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field? Alison: Chocolate Bar offers hand made chocolates, baked goods and cupcakes along with hot and iced chocolates and a full line of espresso drinks.  We strive to provide a quality product using as many organic, locally sourced ingredients from fellow small businesses as possible.

NJMOM: What inspired you to come up with the idea for your business? 
Alison: I had worked in restaurants, coffee houses, and bakeries since I was sixteen.  Aside from writing fiction and poetry, nothing else ever satisfied me as much as making people happy with food and caffeine.  In 2001, I saw a need for a chocolate shop meets neighborhood bakery/coffee shop in what was then my neighborhood in the West Village in New York.  I was able to build upon the relationships I had made working with various chefs and opened the first store in May 2002.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Alison: I always thought I was terrible at science and math, but making chocolate, micro-foaming milk, and baking are all art forms that require a good sense of science and mathematics.  I absolutely love the way art and science come together to make something wonderful which in turn, puts a smile on a customer’s face.  It’s awesome when all the parts come together and you see firsthand the joy it brings people.

Alison in Chocolate Bar’s Dubai branch, one of ten United Arab Emirates locations.

NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Alison: I started working in a coffee house in 1989.  From there I worked as barista, baker, server, cafe manager, chocolate maker, and graphic designer over the next twelve years.  All of my experience is hands-on.  My degree is in writing and comparative literature.  I’ve become a firm believer of the bottom-up philosophy, meaning that the best person to run a company is the one who started in the mail room and worked her way to the top.
There is not a single thing I do not know about my business…
…from the plumbing to the financials, from customer service to the recipes.


 NJMOM: Who is your role model? Why?
Alison: Toni Morrison is my role model.  She was an incredible writer, humanitarian, mother, and friend.  She lived her life with honesty and grace.  She left quite an impression on me.
NJMOM: What’s the best piece of advice a role model ever gave to you?
Alison: My high school cross country coach told me that the key to success is to keep going until you think you can’t, and then go some more.  Since then, I have applied this theory to many aspects in my life.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you? 
Alison: “You are not wrong who deem that my days have been a dream,” from Dream Within A Dream by Edgar Allen Poe.  It is a constant reminder that I have been lucky enough to live the life I’ve lived, and that I should always appreciate the opportunities I have been given, the family and friends I have, and the people I have been able to meet and work with.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in NJ with your family?
Alison: We love to ride our bikes to the beach in the fall, spend weekends at various farmers markets and art fairs.  Summers are for hitting the beach after 1:00pm and ordering pizza for dinner while you wait for the sunset. The kids and I have also enjoyed various concerts at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank.  It’s a great place for them to see and hear live music.  They’ve seen everything from Joan Jett to the Go-Go’s and The Pretenders.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you? 
Alison: The best part about being a mom is getting to witness your kids coming into their own and seeing where you’ve left your imprint.  They are so different than I am. They have different opinions and different passions, but there are little bits of me that come through and it’s magic to watch them grow into individuals.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Alison: The Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan, The Ark in Point Pleasant Beach (a great, old school pub), Lakehouse Music Academy in Asbury Park (the kids do piano and guitar lessons there), Booskerdoo Coffee in Long Branch, Slingin’ Ink Tattoos in Point Pleasant Beach, Brickwall Tavern in Asbury Park, and Max Devros in Manasquan (awesome breakfast and lunch food).
NJMOM: Where do you reside in New Jersey?
Alison: We reside in Manasquan.  It’s a great small town that allows you to bike or walk everywhere.  You know your neighbors.  It’s safe, arts and small business friendly, and a great place for the kids to grow up.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in NJ?
I believe we all should find ways to have fun being moms.
It’s stressful and demanding.  But if we can find the things we enjoy doing and have fun, even when doing mundane chores, our kids will have those moments as memories.
To learn more about Chocolate Bar and their brand new Asbury Park location, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.


About Author

Chelsea is a freelance writer and photographer based in the kid-friendly community of Asbury Park, and she loves sharing tips and news about this cultural beach town with NJMOM readers. When she's not discovering new bike trails, playing in her handbell choir, or reading on the beach, Chelsea works as a Children's Library Associate at a public library. You can catch her out in Asbury Park watching her husband play drums with talented local artists - be sure to come say hello!