Shop is dream­ing of a choco­late Christ­mas

Hoff­man’s ‘Win­ter Won­der­land’ event has been tra­di­tion since 1989

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - MONEY - By Ron Hurt­ibise Staff writer WIN­TER, 12B

Hoff­man’s Choco­lates has added fac­tory tours and an ice skat­ing rink to its big­gest-ever hol­i­daythemed “Win­ter Won­der­land” de­but­ing Satur­day at its choco­late fac­tory in Greenacres.

What started out 27 years ago as a mod­est dis­play of Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and model trains has evolved into a three-quar­ter-acre sea­sonal at­trac­tion with 50 hol­i­day dis­plays, live en­ter­tain­ment, cas­cad­ing foun­tains, con­ces­sions and more.

Founder Paul Hoff­man started the tra­di­tion in 1989 when he be­gan set­ting up model train sets and Christ­mas lights in­side the Bavar­ian vil­lage-style shop. Hoff­man wanted to help fill the void for the com­mu­nity after the Na­tional En­quirer, then based in Lan­tana, pulled the plug on its an­nual Christ­mas tree and hol­i­day dis­play in 1988.

About 20,000 vis­i­tors vis­ited Hoff­man’s Choco­lates each Christ­mas to see the trains, and of course, eat choco­lates and pur­chase gift pack­ages for friends and loved ones.

Al­though Hoff­man re­tired in 2005 and do­nated his trains to South Florida Fair­grounds’ Yesteryear Vil­lage in 2014, the choco­late fac­tory’s cur­rent owner, pri­vate eq­uity group BBX Cap­i­tal, has ex­panded on the Win­ter Won­der­land con­cept.

Lois Marino, di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity en­gage­ment for Hoff­man’s Choco­lates, said the num­ber of vis­i­tors to the Win­ter Won­der­land has in­creased from 20,000 in 2014, BBX’s first year, to 63,000 in 2016.

Even more South Florida fam­i­lies are ex­pected this year, Mar­inKo said.

“Guests tell me, ‘I used to come here when I was a child. Now I bring my kids here,’ ” Marino said.

The choco­late fac­tory is at 5190 Lake Worth Road be­tween Jog Road and South Mil­i­tary Trail.

High­lights and in­for­ma­tion about this year’s at­trac­tion:

De­but — Satur­day. At­trac­tion will be open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m., ex­cept Thanks­giv­ing Day, Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day, through Dec. 30.

What is it? — Win­ter Won­der­land fea­tures more than 125,000 LED lights — 50,000 more than last year — plus a 12-foot Christ­mas tree, Santa and Mrs. Claus, con­ces­sions, ice cream and gifts avail­able for pur­chase.

Cost -- Ad­mis­sion to the Win­ter Won­der­land dis­plays, con­ces­sions, Santa and Mrs. Claus and choco­late store are free. Park­ing is also free on-site or at the ad­ja­cent L.C. Swain Mid­dle School.

How do I get more in­for­ma­tion? — Go to hoff­mans.com/ win­ter­won­der­land for de­tails and daily up­dates on live per­for­mances and other hap­pen­ings. Phone: 888-281-8800.

Ice skat­ing rink — This year, the Florida Pan­thers are co-spon-

JUAN PRIETO-HOFF­MAN'S CHOCO­LATES/COUR­TESY

Founder Paul Hoff­man started the tra­di­tion in 1989 when he set up model trains and Christ­mas lights in­side the shop.

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