Santosh Tiptur’s career began with a Cadbury Eclair. He was just a child at the time, thousands of miles away from Northern Virginia in his native India, where, in the 1970s, chocolate candies were considered rare commodities. Tiptur’s sensuous experience of biting into a single, soft-centered caramel milk chocolate sparked a lifelong love affair — and a desire to share that passion with others.
Tiptur now calls Loudoun County home, and his chocolate-themed restaurant, The Conche, has become a popular fixture in Leesburg since opening its doors in 2017. It’s so well-loved that, within two years, Tiptur was searching for larger spaces that could accommodate The Conche’s booming retail operation. A rotating lineup of chocolate-making classes, summer camps, and birthday parties was beginning to outgrow The Conche’s 300-square-foot chocolate lab.
And while the pandemic slowed the search for a new space, business continued to thrive. Tiptur’s team expanded to baking cakes, then custom orders for birthdays, weddings, and holidays. “We are a restaurant, and our space is quite small to handle all this pressure,” Tiptur recalls thinking at the time. “We used every inch of the space that we had.”
The pandemic-induced property pause, however, may have been a blessing in disguise. After years of planning, what Tiptur eventually stumbled upon was nearly perfect: a 3,300-square-foot chocolate-making facility in Sterling — Sweet Signatures — that specialized in custom sweets for corporate events. The owner was looking to sell the property.
“It was almost exactly what I would have built,” says Tiptur. And so, The Conche Chocolate & Cake Studio was born.
The studio is, in large part, a response to Tiptur’s flourishing business, giving him and his team the opportunity to offer more housemade confections and grow The Conche’s wholesale program. Tiptur also plans to offer shipping before year’s end.
At its core, meanwhile, Tiptur’s studio is a platform to inspire a new generation of chocolatiers through more (and bigger) classes that teach the art of chocolate-making. That passionate approach is one that prompted several of Tiptur’s former summer camp students to go on to culinary school. Two even returned to work with him at The Conche.
Kids, he says, “like to explore.” And no one understands that inquisitive nature better than Tiptur, who never saw chocolate merely as a tasty treat. He wanted to know how it was made, and he hopes The Conche Chocolate & Cake Studio will be a catalyst for others to ask the same question. 22446 Davis Dr., Sterling