Oh! Chocolate Continues Tradition through Three Generations on Mercer Island

December 12, 2022 | by Tiffany Ran

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Gertie and Carl Krautheim, founders of Oh! Chocolate. Photo courtesy Oh! Chocolate

The motto at Oh! Chocolate has been the same for almost four decades: if you stop into the shop, you get a sample. Margo Masaoka regards it as a family tradition, started by her parents, Gertie and Carl Krautheim, who opened Oh! Chocolate on Mercer Island 37 years ago. Today, Masaoka works part-time at the shop having largely passed the baton to her daughter and son-in-law Marisa and Ty Barrett. 

Marisa makes all the chocolates as her grandmother once did: by hand, in small batches. She moves the liquid chocolate from the melter and tempers it slowly, gradually cooling it to create the right texture. Oh! Chocolate truffles are known for their quality, especially the generous amount of chocolate on the outside, which creates a hard candy shell that cracks on first bite. The tender, creamy truffle or just-set caramel within then melts in the eater’s mouth. 

Photo courtesy Oh! Chocolate

Gertie’s earliest inspiration for Oh! Chocolate came shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Knowing that chocolates would bring comfort and calm to her community, she instinctively served visiting neighbors her chocolates during a blackout period. Carl, seeing her growing passion for and curiosity about chocolate making, built her a small air-conditioned room for her to work on her recipes, and when the couple moved to Wenatchee after World War II, they opened their first chocolate shop. At the insistence of their eldest daughter, they moved to Mercer Island, where they believed a shop for artisan chocolates in a small, yet growing community near Seattle would gain more traction. In the shop’s earliest days, Gertie made all the chocolates, while Carl greeted each person who walked through the door with a complimentary truffle or caramel. 

Many Mercer Island kids grew up relishing trips to the shop, knowing the motto meant a chocolate sample always awaited. When those children went off to college, their parents would send them chocolates from the shop, Masaoka says. “When they come back home from college, they come here. They get married and have children. They bring them, and their kids get chocolate.”

Margo Masaoka in Oh! Chocolate. Photo courtesy Oh! Chocolate

Oh! Chocolate welcomes them all from its traditional corner chocolate shop façade, with a black and white striped awning and its name on the door in cursive-like script. Inside, the warm, caramel-colored walls glow pink from a line of small red lampshades. Multi-colored stripes and textures differentiate the abundance of truffles and caramels in the glass case: the smooth white chocolate shell denotes the Mercer Island latte truffle, light blue stripes on dark chocolate signify bourbon, a zig-zag of violet on milk chocolate represents the Pacific Northwest blackberry, and a dusting of earthy red marks the notable mango habanero.

“Many of the little girls grow up and they’ll have their favorite flavors at their weddings and use our chocolates for wedding favors,” says Masaoka. “It becomes a part of their life.”

Though a banner hangs above the Oh! Chocolate storefront announcing the shop’s 37th anniversary, much of the shop remains unchanged since Gertie and Carl founded it. As the shop transitions to its third-generation owners, it continues to welcome a third-generation of regulars who look forward to samples of chocolate, with Ty now welcoming visitors as Carl once did, with a smile and a sample. 

Oh! Chocolate is located at 2703 76th Avenue SE on Mercer Island and online at OhChocolate.Com.