Van Otis Chocolates’ beginning dates back to 1935 when Evangeline Hasiotis began making and selling chocolates in the ground floor of her family’s 3-story walkup apartment building on Spruce Street where Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena now stands. Evangeline (close acquaintances called her “Van”---hence the origin of the store’s name from Van’s first and last names) came to the United States in 1922. She emigrated with her Greek family as an eleven-year-old. She graduated from Manchester High School—Central in 1930.
Evangeline enrolled in the Fanny Farmer confectionary school in Boston in 1935. It was a two-week program. It was later that year when she began her business. Her business grew quietly but steadily until 1958 when developers bought her family’s Spruce Street property and she moved her store to an expanded location at the now-famous corner of Cedar and Chestnut Streets, where the legend of Van Otis really grew. It was here in 1959 that she introduced the famous Van Otis Swiss Fudge.
Evangeline dedicated sixty continuous years of her life to her chocolate business—right up until the day she died in September 1995.
Brothers-in-law David Quinn and Frank Bettencourt purchased Van Otis Chocolates in November 1998—immediately before the very busy Christmas season. The two men had no background in candymaking, and in fact bought the business for the business opportunity they saw in carrying on– and expanding– a Manchester legend.
Following that first holiday season Dave and Frank found a second store location: a larger store in Manchester on the corner of Vinton and South Willow Streets. They outfitted the candy kitchen with more mechanization than the original location and opened on Vinton Street in 1999. With visions of further expansion into wholesale manufacturing and a café, Dave and Frank purchased the current location here at 341 Elm Street and began conversion of the building to a retail store and large candy kitchen (upstairs) with warehouse space in 2001. The Elm Street location was opened in 2002 and fitted with many fixtures from the long-standing Chestnut street store, including the chandeliers, candy cases, and long marble-topped assortment display. The original Chestnut street location was closed and sold after the location on Elm Street opened. The Vinton Street location was consolidated into our facility on Elm Street and closed in April 2007.
The retirements of Bettencourt and Quinn over the course of 18 months in 2007-2008 resulted in the purchase of Van Otis Chocolates by local businessman Marc Amiet, who is now sole owner. Although ownership of Van Otis has changed, the recipes and quality hand craftsmanship of the chocolate remain the same.