Chocolat Stella SA

It's 1PM when I arrive at Chocolat Stella's five-story head office/factory building on a hot July day. The building sits right across from the railroad line running through Giubiasco, a town of 8,000 inhabitants about 10 miles north of Lugano. Passenger trains going to and fro from Italy through Switzerland zoom by here on a frequent basis and probably explains the Chocolat Stella name in big letters being splashed in brown on the sides of the structure.

Chocolat Stella is part of Chocolat Bernrain, a chocolate manufacturer located in northern Switzerland. Even though it's only a subsidiary I'm visiting because it has a separate member listing with Chocosuisse, the Union of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers.

Trying to find a place to lock the bike in the shade I head for the loading dock in the rear. It's mid-summer and I've learned from experience that many chocolate makers shut down for vacation about now. Yep, the factory is definitely closed judging from the half-dozen men on the loading dock working on big pieces of metal machinery-the kind used on the chocolate production line.

The entrance door is locked but there's a woman nearby smoking a cigarette. The woman is Yvonne Hager, assistant to Export Manager Gastone Farolfi. From Hager I learn the place is indeed closed for summer vacation and there's only a skeleton staff here. I'm in luck as Hager agrees to answer my questions. Entering the building I note there's no reception counter or samples of their chocolate goodies for visitors.

Built in 1988, about 40 people work here. Employee parking is free and plentiful, there's no company cafeteria though there's a break room, no formal dress code and no smoking in the workplace. It's a mixed area with residential housing surrounding the factory. Lugano airport lies 10 miles away with the nearest freeway a short 100 meters. Any unusual employee perks? According to Hager it's all the chocolate you want. Oh, and about the company name---there wasn't a Mr. or Mrs. Stella, it's Italian for "star".

Managing Director Alessandro Alberte occupies a top floor corner office. I note the computer, three plants (real) and family pictures. The view out her window? The surrounding valley.

I leave without being offered any company goodies. There's an onsite company store open to the public but, it's closed today.

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