The shop Tom Kron opened the next year on Manhattan's East Side was an instant success—and without any advertising. One reason is 30-year-old Tom's finicky insistence on quality. "Nobody really wants to work with their hands anymore," he complains. "This is the quick age. But I don't make anything that I wouldn't want to eat myself." He has expanded to Beverly Hills, Chicago and Bal Harbour, Fla., and this fall will open on Wall Street and in Palm Beach and Chevy Chase, Md.
Kron's customers, often first lured off the sidewalk to his second-floor Madison Avenue headquarters by the bittersweet smell, consider his 16-ounce bar of pure chocolate a delicacy rivaling beluga caviar and Dom Pérignon champagne. As a result, celebrities are frequent visitors. Mick Jagger chose a white chocolate rabbit one day, just two minutes before closing time. Dinah Shore ordered a box of chocolate truffles for Barbara Walters. And Walters has hand-delivered a 14-inch Kron chocolate teddy bear to Amy Carter.
Tom's 29-year-old wife, Diane, remembers one couple who mailed each other eating cards (up to 10 words on a piece of chocolate for $15) throughout their courtship. For the more practical, there is an $8 chocolate ruler in a wooden case, and for the sports-minded, a set of four golf balls for $5 or a $25 tennis racket, all scrumptiously edible, of course.
The life-size 12-pound Kron leg is a famous specialty. Elizabeth Ashley ordered a dozen at $50 apiece for the cast of A Chorus Line. Another customer gave her husband one on their 50th wedding anniversary—"to remind him what her own legs used to look like," explains Tom. He limits his production to legs and torsos (which go for $40). Customers with more salacious requests are directed to 42nd St. "I won't," huffs Kron, "make anything obscene."
Kron uses only South American-grown cocoa beans, over 90,000 pounds of them a year. "Most candy manufacturers are schlocks," Kron says. "Their chocolates are just chocolate-flavored with coconut oil. People have forgotten what the good taste of real pure chocolate is like." He adds that American obsession with diet has not affected his business. "You don't get fat from good chocolate," he claims. "We add very little sugar."
Kron will risk ODing on the stuff this November when he takes a group of 90 on a one-week tour of candy factories in Zurich and Geneva. "We'll eat chocolate for seven days and nights," he rhapsodizes. "It's for those who never get enough."
Some chocaholics get by on Hershey bars. But real addicts know that the ultimate fix can only be had at Kron Chocolatier. A family-run business in Budapest for over a century, the Krons fled Hungary during the 1956 uprising, opened a candy store in the Bronx but closed it in 1967 when Tibor Kron retired. His son Tom was in medical school in 1973 when he decided that being a doctor no longer interested him. "I had no profession," Tom recalls. "My father said, 'Why don't you make chocolate, you won't starve.' "