Passion, enthusiasm, advocacy, contribution and excellence: if you put together the first letters of these five words, they spell âpeaceâ. And the words represent the core values ââof Peace by Chocolate, a thriving Nova Scotia business – built by a family of Syrian refugees – which is officially expanding this week.
âThis is why we call the company Peace by Chocolate, because we believe that peace is something so noble that everyone should strive for, and chocolate is our product of happiness,â said Tareq Hadhad, owner and CEO of Peace by Chocolate.
On April 8, there will be a ribbon cutting for the company’s new store in downtown Halifax. The ceremony was originally scheduled for March 4, but was canceled due to increased COVID-19 restrictions in Nova Scotia at that time.
The outdoor event is expected to include speeches from community leaders, including Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.
The Hadhad family owned a factory in Damascus, Syria, where they made chocolate for over 20 years. Hadhad said it was the second largest chocolate production plant in the Middle East.
But the factory was bombed in 2012, forcing the family to flee to Lebanon before traveling to Canada as refugees and settling in Antigonish, Nova Scotia in 2016. There in the city 160 kilometers away. northeast of Halifax, the family established the first Peace by Chocolate store. – an achievement that captured national attention and admiration for a family that overcame such upheaval.
Hadhad said he never imagined they would open a store in downtown Halifax after âlosing everything in the worldâ during the first months of the ten-year Syrian civil war.
The family started planning for the new store in early 2020. Hadhad said he hopes the new store and grand opening will allow the family to meet customers from across town.
âWe think people need to celebrate, and people need reasons to cheer themselves up, and chocolate is a product of mirth,â he said.
Despite the inauguration postponed – and the launch ceremony postponed to April 8 – Hadhad said the family wanted to start selling products in time for Easter.
The store’s slogan – “Sow Much Peace” – aims to continue bringing families together after the Easter season.
âWith every Easter product we have included violet seeds to plant so that when people eat their chocolate they will always have seeds to plant as a family,â said Hadhad.
“The reason we chose a violet,” he added, “is because it is a symbol of cheerfulness.”
The company sells over 60 products including peace bars, forgiveness bars, pride bars, welcome to Canada bars and many more. Their chocolate products are shipped across Canada and around the world.
The Halifax location is the only location in the country that contains all of the company’s products.
Halifax City Councilor Waye Mason said the new location is “enchanting” and “a huge and positive addition to the water’s edge.”
âYou don’t go around the world looking for a McDonald’s and a Gap store,â Mason said. âThe majority of the exciting things you talk about that are unique are businesses started by young entrepreneurs. . . . These things are local and special, and I think (Peace by Chocolate) is a great addition to that. “
A new store isn’t the only thing the Hadhad family have been working on. Jonathan Keijser, a Los Angeles-based Nova Scotia filmmaker, has made a feature film that follows the family’s journey from Damascus to their first year in Nova Scotia.
Keijser said he followed the family story on the news and immediately thought “this is a great Canadian achievement that needs to be filmed”.
“I would consider (Kim’s convenience) a Canadian success story by telling an authentic story that represents the values ââof how we want to treat our neighbors and newcomers as one, âsaid Keijser. “I think that’s the importance of a movie like ours, and I hope people will embrace it, enjoy the movie, and be able to share it.”
Keijser said it was really important to make the film authentic. The cast are originally from Syria and they all grew up around Damascus.
The film stars the famous Syrian actors Hatem Ali and Yara Sabri, who play Issam and Shahnaz Hadhad, Tareq’s parents. Sadly, Ali died in December of a heart attack.
Keijser said he worked with the Hadhad family throughout the film’s making process and family members visited the set.
âThere is a scene in the movie where (the family is) additional actors in the background. . . . So whoever sets the scene will be able to see the whole family behind the actors who play them, âsaid Keijser. âIt’s really cool. I’m really happy we were able to make it happen.
The film, due for release this year, will tell the story of a family that aims to “bring happiness through chocolate,” Hadhad said.
“We believe that Peace by Chocolate is more than a cause than a business,” he said. “And it started because of the passions of the humans who came together to defend this value.”