Most people would be satisfied having one successful career behind them. It’s rare when a person can say they’ve had two. But Ben Stohecker can say that, having launched a world-renowned chocolate company while simultaneously building a strong following as a gifted artist.
It was while he was director of marketing for Schrafft’s candy company that he conceived the idea for Harbor Sweets chocolate. “I always felt it was important to have the best of the best, no matter what the cost,” Stohecker explains. Seeing that there were few companies producing high-quality gourmet chocolates at the time, in 1973, he started moonlighting—making chocolate at night in the basement of his house. His chocolate was such a hit with consumers that within five years demand for it forced him to move operations to a factory on Lafayette Street in Salem. Thus, Harbor Sweets was born. Today, the company remains hugely successful and boasts a customer base that reaches beyond the Atlantic Ocean.
As much as he enjoyed his time in the world of cocoa and sugar, Stohecker was equally invested in the art world. Upon leaving the chocolate business, he got more serious about his painting, focusing on watercolors. In 2001, he took a course from award-winning watercolorist, Robert Wade, who ultimately became his mentor. As his painting skills evolved, he developed a faithful following, and his work started appearing in local art shows around the North Shore. It has since been featured by the Marblehead Arts Association and Salem State University, among other venues. “I’ve been featured in probably close to 40 shows,” says Stohecker. “I do a couple of shows a year, sometimes more.” In addition to his solo shows, he has also had his work featured alongside several celebrated artists, most notably, Beverly Seamans—the late Marblehead-based sculptor whose bronze works work can be seen all around the North Shore and abroad, in Paris.
In 2013, Stohecker added yet another notch to his belt when he published a children’s book titled The Day the Ocean Changed to Chocolate, which he both penned and illustrated. Presently, he is working on two more children’s books, which he hopes to have published in the near future.