Lebanon chocolate shop started in 1966 is family tradition
Donaldson’s Finer Chocolates in Lebanon, Indiana
LEBANON, Ind. (WISH) — The same sweet formula has made Donaldson’s Finer Chocolates a staple in central Indiana for more than five decades.
“My mother and father started the business in 1966,” Bob Donaldson said. “I was 11 years old then so I was a young kid and just had to chance to grow up in the chocolate business.”
When George and Peg Donaldson founded the shop 53 years ago, it was a business, but now it’s become much more. It’s now a Donaldson family tradition.
“We don’t really have positions,” Bob’s wife, Kathy Donaldson, said. “We don’t have titles. It’s a family business, but also the people that work here become a family.”
Kathy Donaldson got a taste of the business long before she got married to Bob Donaldson. She started working for the family at age 17. She says, over the last 53 years, they’ve been making chocolate the exact same way and with that recipe they bring new customers in and old customers back.
“I do believe they come here for the experience because you can see everything made here and everything is chocolates here,” Bob said. “It’s all we do.”
If you start a conversation with people in the shop, you might find out a new customer could literally be from anywhere. In the store, you’ll find a couple of maps marked with pins that represents every place a customer has visited from in and out of the state of Indiana.
“When I was a kid it used to start out with just an Indiana map and then there was a U.S. map and then a world map showed up,” Bob said.
“They’ll be from some tiny little island somewhere that I have never heard of,” Kathy said.
Bob and Kathy were asked what place shocked them the most, they both agreed on Greenland. “There’s not that many people that come from Greenland,” Bob said and laughed.
The Donaldsons say people continue to come for a recipe you can’t measure. “Come and see how it’s made and the love that’s put into it,” Kathy said.
That love is a legacy that George Donaldson, the shop’s founder, held up with pride.
“My father passed away last year at 90 and he was actually working actually all the way up to a month before that,” Bob said.
Kathy says he’s even after George’s passing he’s still inspiring her in the kitchen.
“I talk to him in the kitchen when things are really busy and things aren’t going well,” Kathy said. “It’s like OK George what would you do?”
“One of the last things he asked me was ‘Bob, will this business go on?’” Bob said. “I assured him that ‘Yes, sir, it will go on, Dad.’”
Now as word keeps getting out around the world, the Donaldson family hopes to keep making George proud. “It’s just an honor to be able to do that and we’ll honor him that way.”