Syrian chocolatier Assam Hadhad puts chocolate into moulds at his newly opened Peace By Chocolate factory in Antigonish, N.S. on Saturday, September 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
ANTIGONISH, N.S. — A Syrian refugee says he and his family are giving back to the Nova Scotia town that welcomed them when they had "nothing" by employing locals and treating the community to tours of their new chocolate factory.
Hundreds of people waited in line Saturday at Peace by Chocolate — whose sweets have been touted by none other than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — for the grand opening of its new factory in Antigonish.
Spectators looked on as Assam Hadhad deftly scooped molten chocolate into trays to be filled, frozen and boxed into rows of sweets shaped like pyramids, roses and maple leafs.
Hadhad ran a chocolate business in Damascus for decades, but it was destroyed in a 2012 bombing, forcing the family to flee to a refugee camp in Lebanon.
His son Tareq Hadhad, an aspiring physician, says his eyes welled up with tears as he celebrated with the residents of Antigonish, whose support he credits for his allowing his family to rebuild after settling in the town of about 5,000 in early 2016.
Tareq Hadhad, now a board member of Nova Scotia’s economic development agency, says Peace by Chocolate plans to double its workforce to 20 employees to keep up with demand and spread its message across the globe.
Residents of Antigonish say they take pride in the Hadhad family’s success and seeing their town turned into a beacon of how openness pays back in spades.