This Saturday, June 25, Mokaya, a family-owned and operated
chocolate confectionary, will celebrate its grand opening at 638 Wealthy St. SE. At the site of the former Johnny B’z
, Mokaya will be sharing half of the hot dog restaurant's former space with LAMB BRIDE
, a new bridal shop and studio. Mokaya is owned by Charles "Smitty" Golcyzynski, who will work with his son, Max, who serves as the shop's general manager. The Golcyzynskis will craft unique chocolate truffles, ice creams, sodas, and hot chocolates year-round.
"This was kind of a retirement plan," Max says about his father's new chocolate venture. Smitty, who pursued marine biology in college, went on to own Jersey Junction in East Grand Rapids and, later, his own catering business, The Catering Company
, on Fulton Street East.
Almost two decades into his culinary career, Smitty began crafting chocolates, and soon began learning the art of confectionary from his friends and colleagues at the Culinary Institute of Michigan. Falling in love with all things chocolate, he looked forward to owning his own chocolate shop and sold The Catering Co. two years ago to pursue
Mokaya. With his son at his side, the two sought out the cozy space on Wealthy Street and got to work on renovations.
Working alongside his father, Max is no stranger to the culinary world. "I grew up in his kitchen," he says. Even while pursuing an undergraduate degree in anthropology, Max was drawn to the food and beverage industry and continued working for his father, along with working for other local businesses such as Lyon Street Cafe.
Opening this Saturday at 11am, Smitty and Max will debut a large, varied menu that principally focuses on creative truffles. "Everything is house-made," says Max. In addition to traditional flavors like almond and coconut, Smitty will also showcase some more daring combinations, such as a sun-dried tomato jelly, chocolate toffee popcorn with duck cracklings and a beer flight of truffles. Despite this experimentation, Smitty will stay true to his mission, and Max notes that, "Everything has some form of chocolate." Sourcing mostly from South America and Europe, Smitty's combinations always starts with high quality chocolate at their base.
Starting out with a killer location and over three decades of experience, Mokaya looks forward to other outlets like wedding favors, graduation parties and beer and chocolate tastings. Prioritizing partnering with other local businesses like The Peoples Cider Co
. and neighbor Rowster Coffee
, Smitty and Max are excited to join the local scene. Named for "an ancient meso-American tribe that's currently recognized as the earliest group to bring chocolate all over the Americas," says Max, Mokaya seeks to spread the love of chocolate throughout GR. Check them out at their opening this Saturday at 11am.
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/MokayaGR/
Photos by Leigh Ann Cobb