BUFFALO, N.Y. — Take a ride through Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood, specifically along 85 River Rock Drive, and maybe you’ll see the sign for Tomric Systems Inc.
But most Western New Yorkers—even if they do see that sign or the building-- don’t actually know what Tomric represents to the city, the country and well beyond.
And hey, there are two chocolate waterfalls right through the front door. Seriously.
But those big dreams came from humble beginnings, just like so many of Buffalo’s success stories.
More Than Molds
Michael Odrzywolski, Tomric’s Director of Sales, can trace back the timeline of the “Tomric” brand to 1962, back when the rest of the chocolate-making industry was using molds made of metal or tin.
"It wasn't really easy to use, [it was] hard to make,” Odrzywolski said. “Then the Elsinghorst brothers basically started making plastic molds, and that’s when we really got our start."
Many mornings, you can find Odrzywolski at Tomric sharing a cup of coffee with Brian Donaghy, the company’s Corporate Chocolatier and Innovation Center Manager.
Donaghy has been with the company for nearly 13 years, and he’s seen the company grow by leaps and bounds during that time.
"We thought small,” Donaghy says of his early days with Tomric, “which is not an insult. We were a family company that just hadn't grown yet."
As the turn of the came, they continued to aim their sights higher. To be so much more than simply a chocolate mold company.
Eventually, for Tomric, molds led to full candy trays, which led to specialized chocolate candy designs and candy wrapping.
Now, Tomric sells virtually any chocolate-making machinery you can think of, from small-batch machines for local chocolate shops, to industrial sized machines for bigger candy companies.
It’s safe to say if you’ve ever had a piece of chocolate you truly loved, there’s a very good chance Tomric had at least a little bit of influence in making it.
"If you walk into any chocolate shop around the corner, whether its local here in Buffalo,” Odrzywolski said, referencing local shops like Fowlers, Dark Forest, Antoinette’s and Park Edge as a few examples. “It's probably a mold made by Tomric that got you there."
"We're behind the scenes for most people,” Donaghy said. “Being a part of so many peoples careers businesses and lives... It's kind of fun."
But beyond the local scene, Tomric has also spread its influence internationally, into countries like Canada, Mexico, Colombia and Nicaragua, to name a few.
Their client base is fairly small, sitting at about 3500 active clients, but Tomric isn’t just about selling equipment or molds. In Odrzywolski’s words, they want to help their clients solve problems.
"We really support them from start to finish, and that's why we built this facility, right? To really help our customers learn to make better chocolate."
A True Dream Job
While he was in culinary school, Donaghy’s chef instructors gave him and his fellow classmates a bit of wisdom: “You can go anywhere, and do anything in this business. You just have to be determined.”
But those weren’t really his favorite words of wisdom.
“My mother jokes with me that when I was 6-years-old, I would order the largest piece of chocolate cake they had on the menu, no matter what I had for dinner,” laughs Donaghy. “And I’d eat the whole thing.”
It’s that same love that fuels some of the educational opportunities Tomric has been rolling out, like their gelato-making and chocolate-sculpturing classes in recent months.
From prospective clients with orders for dozens of molds, to birthday parties or wine and chocolate pairing events for Western New York chocolate enthusiasts, Donaghy is very aware of how fortunate he is to be able to share his craft with others.
“It was meant to be. I really believe that,” Donaghy said. “I love working with it, and teaching about it and just the aroma… I’m the only guy I know that regularly has a 20-pound box of chocolate on his counter at home.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the services, opportunities, and possibilities you can find at Tomric—whether you’re looking to start your own chocolate-making business, make a specialty design for your holiday candy bars or even a specialized event for yourself and a group of friends, family or coworkers—you can call their Buffalo facility at (716) 854-6050, or visit their website for other event or contact information.
(And hey… Seriously… Set up an appointment just to check out those chocolate waterfalls...)