Local Business Profile: Markham & Fitz Chocolate
If you ask the business owners of Markham and Fitz Chocolate, Lauren Blanco and Preston Stewart, you’ll learn that the third wave of chocolate is coming.
The owners are interested in bringing Bentonville less of a commodity, and more of an art form; something that can be shared and discussed and mulled over on the level of wine or fine food options. But something else you’ll learn is that Bentonville has been essential in that vision, and in a greater number of ways than simply being home to a business.
Markham and Fitz is located inside the 8th Street Market, a community-centric food and drink hub in Bentonville. The creative and community aspects of the space have been a huge draw for owners and prospective entrepreneurs, who say the sharing of space and ideas is a key part of what makes Bentonville an entrepreneurial hub of the South.
“The collaborative nature of this space is really what drew us in—I mean had we started a business in any other space, I think it may have felt really lonely,” Lauren said. “And we have a collaborative team around us, and that helps us hugely.”
Both Preston and Lauren took care to note that the unique makeup of the town is a part of what drives their business, and tourism has a role to play.
“We researched the whole Northwest Arkansas area before starting this business, and one of the things about Bentonville is that there’s so much tourism around here,” Preston said. “And when you have people constantly coming and going, they take your chocolate with them!”
Whether through art connoisseurs, visiting cyclists, businesspeople, or those who are undertaking some combination of all that, Bentonville’s strong draw to people from across the country serves local businesses, especially those with special product offerings.
As the only bean to bar chocolate maker in all of NWA, Markham and Fitz fits the bill.
The owners each expressed that Bentonville has been a hub for innovation, infrastructure and the type of environment that allows business to thrive. Their own experiences, and those of the other tenants in the 8th Street Market, point to the diversity of experiences that have led so many business owners to similar conclusions: Businesses are built in Bentonville.
“If someone is thinking of bringing their business here, I would say that it’s just the right time to do it. You can feel the energy here—people are being innovative and creative, and they’re bringing their ideas to life in what feels like a safe space to do that,” Lauren said. “People here are looking for the next great idea, and they want to make it work for you too.”