‘Chocolate Nazi’ concocts sweet treats for Milwaukee

Northern Chocolate Company on Martin Luther King Drive is run by a ‘Chocolate Nazi’. Photo by Emily Waller / [email protected]

Walk to the door.

Ring the bell.

Wait for Jim Fetzer to answer.

He may let you in – if you don’t look like a hoodlum. If you appear to be up to no good, he will refuse your business.

Fetzer, affectionately called the Chocolate Nazi because of his strict regulations on customers’ behavior, is the owner, founder and sole employee of Northern Chocolate Co. Located at 2034 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, the shop is a chocolate wonder that operates in Milwaukee and originated in 1991.

It’s fair to say Fetzer is not a people person – his nickname stems from the famous Soup Nazi episode on “Seinfeld.” He does not allow customers to pay with credit cards, only cash. If they are lucky and he deems the patron trustworthy, a check is acceptable.

Also, don’t take all the chocolate bars from the shelf and expect a discount. If a customer wipes out Fetzer’s stash, he will return the favor.

Fetzer started his business for one simple reason: the love of the game.

“I enjoy (chocolate) as much as women love it,” Fetzer said.

Fetzer said he didn’t originally plan on being a chocolate connoisseur.

After graduating with a major in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater almost 40 years ago, Fetzer was intent on becoming a lawyer. Instead, he took a job at Ambrosia Chocolate Company as a quality control technician and later in research development.

At Ambrosia, Fetzer fell in love with chocolate. Making chocolate was no longer just a job, but a passion. He began making chocolates at home, working at his kitchen table, and eventually took a stab at making his own sweets for his own company.

“This was something I enjoyed doing and something I saw myself doing on my own,” Fetzer said.

He makes and sells his product in the same building, stirring chocolate sauce while monitoring the entrance for potential hooligans.

“I don’t like any dirty business,” he told Carleen Schelitzche, a visitor last winter from Minnesota who felt the need to indulge in a little chocolate and meet the famous Chocolate Nazi.

Schelitzche was overwhelmed by the amount of chocolate in the small room and by the fact that Fetzer single-handedly made it all.

“There were so many things,” Schelitzche said in an interview this week. “I bought chocolate for what seemed like my whole family. Chocolate Saint Nick’s, covered blueberries and almonds. So much and so good.”

Adults represent the normal clientele for the owner and baker. Fetzer said he does not get a lot of students, but when he does, they are primarily from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette.

“I get a lot of Marquette dental students,” Fetzer said. “I love when they come in because then I can say, ‘Don’t forget to brush and floss.’”

This year for the Easter holiday, Fetzer did not have as many new products for his customers as hoped.

“This year I pretty much had the same things,” Fetzer said. “I ran out of ingredients. It wasn’t my best Easter.”

The economy has taken a toll on Fetzer’s business. He said he couldn’t make his traditional chocolate oranges or chocolate strawberries because he couldn’t get the ingredients from the suppliers.

“The economy has hit me hard, and it’s stressful – almost as stressful as people,” Fetzer said.

After speaking about the economy, Fetzer confessed that he is contemplating retirement.

“Seven days a week and no breaks becomes tiring,” Fetzer said.

He claims in two years he will be retired and may work part time for the holiday season, but nothing has been finalized. With that tidbit, he quashed the rest of the interview.

“I gotta get goin’,” he said. “I have all these frickin’ chocolate bowls to wash.”