Featured image: Robert and Viny Wallace of Joyland Provisions stands in their certified home kitchen where they make small-batch chocolate. (photo by Sayaka Matusoka)
The unbroken line weaves in and out of itself, crossing paths with its body to create a looping hypnotic pattern on the bright yellow paper. The kolam is a form of drawing that is often found in front of homes in Southern India, created delicately from rice flour or chalk as part of a morning meditation. The patterns are intricate and differ regionally. It’s thought to bring harmony to the home as well as celebrate coexistence with nature. Rather than marking the outside of a home however, this kolam on the bright-yellow background decorates the exterior of one of Joyland Provision’s signature chocolate bars.
“When I was growing up, people would draw this in front of their house with rice flour,” says Viny Wallace, co-owner of Joyland Provisions. “It was for decoration but also for really connecting with the earth. Now it’s an auspicious thing to do.”
Wallace moved to the United States from India with her husband Robert eight years ago. A few years after settling in Greensboro, the two started Joyland Provisions, a small-batch food company specializing in single-origin dark chocolate. One of their signature bars — the single-origin from India — bears the kolam as a way to infuse some of the culture into the product.
“I’ve had experiences that not everyone has been blessed to have and I know it’s not easy to understand how things are done differently in some places,” says Robert, who has traveled all over the world. “Chocolate is a way to connect those different things and other people.”
Both Robert and Viny say they want to use chocolate to not only spread joy through exquisite flavors, but to share knowledge of the people and cultures behind the individual bars. In addition to their bar from India, they sell bars made with cacao from Tanzania, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic.
“It’s a great way for us to connect with other cultures,” Viny says. “It’s really interesting seeing all of the differences with a single thing like cacao. It’s a hobby that got way out of control.”
Joyland Provisions got its start back in 2017 after Robert began talking with a friend about making chocolate. He read some books and started making chocolate in his free time. Three years later, the Wallace’s kitchen looks like a tiny chocolate-making factory complete with all of the gadgets needed to crank out high-quality bars, like a melanger and a tempering machine. Right now, the two make all of their chocolate out of their certified home kitchen with the help of Viny’s father Harry Joseph. They wrap and package each bar by hand, and do most of the selling too. Because both Robert and Viny work full-time jobs, they spend a lot of time moving product on the weekends at local farmer’s markets like the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market on Yanceyville and the Corner Market on Walker Ave. These days, because of the pandemic, they have stepped up their online business as well, shipping chocolate and trying to increase awareness through marketing.
“We’re trying to elevate it and communicate the worth behind it,” Robert says about the chocolate. “Our vision is to always keep chocolate at the center of what we do and the people behind the chocolate at the center of what we do.”
Eventually, the couple hopes to expand out of their home and rent a space.
“I would like to get the factory out of my house,” Viny says. “I’d like to do this on a bigger scale. I feel good about what we’re doing. It is a heartwarming thing. I do want to do more of it.”
Most of the couple’s customers are local and they think it’s because there isn’t really anyone else doing specialty chocolate in the city.
“I think there was a space in Greensboro where no one was making chocolate,” Viny says.
“Plus, there’s something delicious about it,” Rob adds. “It’s just fun.”
Other area chocolatiers include Black Mountain Chocolate in Winston-Salem and Videri Chocolate in Raleigh. And because of the pandemic, they say that an interest in supporting local products has developed and helped their business.
“The appetite for local really increased during this time,” Viny says. “We were already conscious about supporting local, but there’s so much more now.”
The two find ways to collaborate with other local makers to create their product. For one chocolate bar, they used coffee by Fireweed Coffee, another vendor at the Corner Farmer’s Market, to create a coffee-infused chocolate bar. They’ve also sold macarons made by Easy Cuisine using their chocolate and Little Brother Brewing used their cocoa nibs for an award-winning beer. For the next few weeks, the two are advertising holiday flavors like pistachio-cranberry and gingerbread spice.
And like the name suggests, Robert says the main goal with Joyland is to make customers smile, but he finds joy in the process, too. He says his favorite part of the making process is the roasting because of the way it makes the house smell.
“It smells really good,” he says. “It’s tactile; it engages all of your senses. And it’s cool to get to see something transform in real time in the course of an hour.”
Viny’s is the final step before the bars go out into the world.
“We’re so close to the product,” she says. “We’re tending to it. It makes it feel like we’re pouring our love into it right before we give it to our customers.”
Learn more about Joyland Provisions at joylandprovisions.com. On Saturday, Joyland Provisions will be at the Winston Junction Market in Winston-Salem from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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