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Get To Know Local Cocoa Makers: Mike and Jen’s Cocoa Mixes

We love to drink local, especially hot cocoa after a day of skiing at Spirit Mountain. If you are like us you probably have tried to find the best hot cocoa. Look no further! We have found a superior cocoa mix, and best yet – it’s made here in Duluth!

We first saw this local cocoa being sold at the Duluth Kitchen Co in the Fitger’s complex. We bought a bag and tried it right away, and haven’t had another brand since! We contacted Dean (dad to the famous Mike and Jen) to set up a photo shoot with Mad Chicken Studio and met them at the commercial kitchen above Duluth Coffee Company.

Now let’s get to know the people behind the cocoa –

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Name: Dean Packingham

Business name and retail location: Mike and Jen’s Hot Cocoa, assembled in commercial kitchen space at Duluth Coffee Company

Years in Business: 3

How did you get started: Looking back, I can hardly believe how all of this started. My daughter, Jen (one of the namesakes of the company), absolutely LOVES hot cocoa. The typical routine was for her to come in from playing in the snow and ask for hot cocoa. So, I started making her hot cocoa while she got out of her wet and snowy gear. While waiting for the milk to heat up, I started looking at the ingredients on the back of the canister. I could not believe my eyes. I was really disappointed that there were so many chemicals in the mix I was serving to her. So I said to her “Jenny, we should make our very own hot cocoa mix”. She said “Yeah!”, and then I said “and we should make the best in the WORLD”, and she said “YEAH!”. Within a couple hours, I had already started investigating how to make the best cocoa mix. In the end, we spent hundreds of dollars ordering various cocoa powders from around the world. We kept coming back to Pernigotti, which comes from a small village in Italy. We decided that we would do this for fun, and give a portion of the proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

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Why did you choose Duluth: I was born and raised in Duluth and I absolutely love it. My children, Mike and Jen, share that love of their city and we just wanted to do something fun right here in the city we love.

What is your business known for: All natural hot cocoa mix, made with love, in small batches. To date, we’ve made and sold about two TONS of our mix.

What is your favorite thing about Duluth: That we have the amenities of many larger cities, but can go on a different hike with just a short drive or walk.

What is your favorite place to eat in Duluth: Tavern on the Hill

What is your favorite local place in Duluth: Duluth Coffee Company

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What do you think about the current Duluth economy: Having grown up in the 1980’s, and seeing the closure of many plants and the air base, it would have been pretty easy to give up. Thankfully, we’ve had some great leaders and citizens that just would not give up. Seeing the strides this city has made is nothing short of miraculous. We are so proud to call this home, and so proud of all the building and companies large and small – from Duluth Preserving Company, to Cirrus Aircraft and Maurices. Things are looking great for this community.

 

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What would be your advice to someone thinking about starting a new business in Duluth: I think the best advice I could offer

is to give it a shot. Do not be afraid to reach out to people that have already grown a business in Duluth, as there is an amazing group of people willing to help each other. We feel like we are all in this together, and I don’t think you will find anyone that would not bend over backwards to help you get started. That is the experience I have had, and it is so refreshing to have people that want to help.

 

The best way to end a hard day’s work? A cup of hot cocoa, of course!

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Mad Chicken Studio made this video so you can pretend you were there with us!

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Mission | to strengthen the Duluth economy & community by featuring the hard-working small business owners that contribute to making Duluth so great!

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