Phyl Newbeck, Contributor
It’s not always an easy transition when you take the helm of your family’s business, but Eric Lampman made that move when he took the reins from his father in 2016. Lampman thinks the process was easier in his case because the company in question is Lake Champlain Chocolates.
“It’s different from other lines of work,” Lampman said. “It’s pure joy and indulgence and at the end of the day you’re always smiling.”
Lampman graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in management and business and a minor in economics. He enjoyed the fact that the program included case studies of local businesses, as well as some as far away as New Zealand. Although he already knew the family business well, Lampman felt he had a better grasp of it after graduation.
First, however, Lampman headed to Aspen to ski and work in the restaurant industry which, coincidentally, was something his parents had also done, albeit briefly. Lampman got to experience one of the best snow years Aspen has ever had and worked numerous positions, starting with runner but eventually including barbacking, waiting tables and high-end catering.
“That was a great experience in a quick amount of time,” he said. “A lot of my passion for food solidified there.”
Returning to Vermont, Lampman briefly tried to become a professional golfer but that didn’t pan out. His skills at the sport are evident since he was the men’s champion at the Vermont National Country Club in 2003 and 2007-12. Lampman learned the sport from his paternal grandfather at a very young age and he continues to play.
Lampman also plays hockey with a local group and enjoys getting out on frozen ponds. He also plays paddle (sometimes called platform tennis) outside in the winter on what looks like a miniature tennis court, lifted off the ground and surrounded by chicken wire.
“It looks a little like racquetball,” he said, “but it’s outside under the lights. The colder the better.”
Lampman has also been getting his oldest son out on skis and skates.
For years, Lake Champlain Chocolates has used only Fair Trade-certified cocoa beans. All the sugar and coconut and most of the vanilla beans are also certified, and they try to work solely with organic suppliers.
For a time, the company was certified by Fair for Life which goes beyond the supply chain to include a company’s treatment of its workers. Unfortunately, the composite nature of chocolate and the different processes involved in creating product became too complex and it shifted to becoming a certified B corporation in May of 2018. Lampman believes this certification allows the company to focus on their product, their workers and the sustainability of the planet.
Initially, all production was done on Pine Street in Burlington, but that building was sold to Dealer.com. Roughly 10 years ago, the company moved warehousing and shipping to Williston but after some time they realized that dual locations meant trucks moving from one building to another several times a day. All production was moved to Williston in May 2021. The Pine Street facility is still used to make ice cream and retail specialties and houses the research and development team.
Prior to taking the role of president, Lampman led the research and development team, working with cocoa farmers in Africa and Central America. Lampman sees a parallel between those farms and the dairy farms and apple orchards of Vermont.
These days, Lampman is focusing his efforts on developing new products. “One of the things I really enjoy,” he said, “is creating new and interesting small-scale products for stores and then gearing them up for longevity and sustainability.”
Lampman was born in Charlotte and returned to his roots six years ago with his wife Willa. His sister, Ellen Reed, lives in Hinesburg and is director of purchasing, sustainability and B Corp (certification) initiatives.
Maybe a few years down the road, another Lampman might join the management team and keep Lake Champlain Chocolates a family business for many generations to come, but that may take a while. The Lampmans’ three children are all under 4.
“My kids have all shown they enjoy chocolate and ice cream,” Lampman said, “so the building blocks are in place.”