A bell rings throughout the day at Kirchmayr Chocolatier in Timonium, signaling a steady flow of customers. The staff is working calmly but swiftly, a sales associate poking his head into the production room to ask for a box of four raspberry truffles and chocolatiers in the kitchen making more hollow Santas and snowmen to restock the dwindling supply. Never mind heart-shaped chocolate boxes and Easter bunnies — for Kirchmayr, the holiday season is the busiest time of the year.

Miyoko Russell, owner of Kirchmayr Chocolatier, puts chocolates into boxes on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023.
Miyoko Russell, owner of Kirchmayr Chocolatier, puts chocolates into boxes on Dec. 14. The assorted boxes are a popular item during the holiday season because of corporate gifts. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Owner Miyoko Russell began working at Kirchmayr in 1998, one year after she immigrated to the U.S. from Japan. She had been a pastry worker and wanted a similar job here, which led her to become a chocolate maker and later store manager under the company’s founder, Albert Kirchmayr.

The store prides itself on crafting fine European-style chocolate, which Kirchmayr learned to make as a young man in Germany and Switzerland. He brought his skills to the Baltimore area with the opening of Kirchmayr Chocolatier in 1988.

Top: Snowmen molds are decorated with milk chocolate hats, noses and buttons, white chocolate scarves and dark chocolate eyes. The snowmen are a new design Kirchmayr introduced this holiday season. Bottom: Kirchmayr “stickers” are seen on top of cocoa ganache in the cooling room. The design, which is made of edible cocoa butter, transfers to the ganache as the chocolate cools and hardens. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)
Visitors are greeted with a festive display of chocolates for sale when they walk into Kirchmayr’s store in Timonium. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

When the pandemic took hold and severely impacted business in 2020, Kirchmayr decided to close the company once the Easter season concluded. At first, the team thought there would be a chance for reopening, but Kirchmayr ultimately chose to retire.

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That’s when Russell and fellow longtime Kirchmayr chocolatier Jeff (who prefers to not share his last name) began looking into how to reopen the shop. They still really enjoyed making chocolate and wanted to “keep the tradition alive.” With the help of Michael Clark, a part-time employee, they moved all of the equipment from the original location on Deereco Road two miles south to their current storefront on York Road and reopened on Dec. 6, 2021.

Miyoko Russell and Michael Clark decorate snowmen molds in the kitchen. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)
Left: Molds of Santas rotate on a machine that ensures the chocolate, which is hollow, is distributed evenly.
Right: Snowmen that cracked in their molds and weren’t fit to sell melt in a pan.
Left: Molds of Santas rotate on a machine that ensures the chocolate, which is hollow, is distributed evenly. Right: Snowmen that cracked in their molds and weren’t fit to sell melt in a pan. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Two years after reopening, Kirchmayr hasn’t missed a beat. Russell hires seasonal workers to keep up with the holiday rush and introduced two new offerings this season: snowmen and nutcrackers. The chocolate Santas remain the top sellers; the team says they set out to make 2,500 of the small variety, based on last year’s sales, and will make more if needed.

Miyoko Russell points out which snowmen molds still need to be decorated, while Michael Clark looks on. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)
Joey Russell, owner Miyoko Russell’s son and holiday employee, sets a freshly-made dark chocolate Santa into a row of others on a tray.
Joey Russell, seasonal sales associate and Miyoko Russell’s son, sets freshly made dark chocolate Santas onto a tray. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)
Miyoko and Joey Russell package a 2-foot-tall dark chocolate Santa. The hollow confection is made of about five pounds of chocolate. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

After 25 years of working at Kirchmayr, Russell says she could still eat chocolate every day. A coworker joked that she’s still maintained her slim figure, to which Russell replied, “The chocolate makes me happy, and the happy energy burns the calories!”

This year, Kirchmayr is offering Santas, snowmen and nutcrackers in various sizes and chocolate types.
Santas, snowmen and nutcrackers in various sizes and chocolate types are packaged and ready to find homes for the holidays. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Kylie Cooper is a photo fellow at The Baltimore Banner as part of the Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism Fellowship program. 

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