The owners of Kyya Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker based in Elm Springs, have signed a lease agreement to open the company’s first retail store on the square in downtown Bentonville.
Owners Rick and Cindy Boosey said the business will open “within the next several weeks” at 111 N. Main St. The building was previously occupied by The Station Café, a long-running restaurant that closed in April and relocated to another Bentonville address in June under new ownership.
Cecil Turner, the previous owner of The Station Café, told the Business Journal earlier this year he decided to sell the restaurant and retire because the building sold “and the new landlord is going to tear it down and put a different building up here.”
“I don’t know who [the new owner] is, and nobody wants to tell me who it is. And that’s fine,” Turner said in a Business Journal story published in April. “It’s a corporation of some kind or another. I would assume it’s a developer. I don’t know what they have planned for the building. It sure won’t be a restaurant, because they won’t be able to afford the overhead.”
According to county property records, though, the 1,876-square-foot building is still owned by Joe and Betty Baker. They have owned the property since 1994.
Rick Boosey said the lease term is for one year. He declined to answer a question about the building ownership.
“We were honored to be asked to bring our chocolates to the Bentonville Square,” he said. “We’ve been part of the Downton Bentonville Farmers’ Market since we started, but we had to pull back our participation in the summer because the heat melted the product.”
Kyya was the first bean-to-bar chocolate company in Arkansas. The Booseys founded the business in 2012 on a NGO trip to Uganda to build a chicken farm. On the way home, they considered the needs and natural resources of Uganda, and brainstormed the chocolate company as a way to support the farmers and communities.
“We saw an immense need,” Rick said. “But the nonprofit projects never made a dent.”
Kyya sells chocolate from 16 countries from the 26 countries it has sourced from, with a goal of eventually sourcing from 40 countries. Where possible, Kyya works directly with the cacao farmers who grow and hand-pick the cacao beans used in its products.
The Bentonville storefront will greatly expand the number of products Kyya can offer for sale to the public. Its only retail space right now is a 250-square-foot display inside its manufacturing facility and headquarters, housed inside a converted gas station on Arkansas Highway 112 in Elm Springs.
The company currently has 140 different chocolate products and makes about 1.5 metric tons of products every month, including bars, syrups, fudge, bonbons and popcorn. Kyya’s biggest retail customer, Allen’s Food Market in Bella Vista, carries only 22 varieties of products.
The company has 281 retail partners in 16 states. That number is expected to increase to 350 by the end of the year.
“We want to change the way people experience chocolate,” Cindy Boosey said. “We want them to experience the diversity of flavors in chocolate.
Kyya has 16 employees. The Booseys said they will add about four employees to operate the new store.