Former Syrian refugee in Halifax completing journey from hardship to harmony

Nova Scotia businessman Tareq Hadhad says he’s confident of an economic turnaround in Canada by the end of 2020.

Hadhad, who fled war-torn Syria with his family in 2015, has opened a new shop for his internationally successful brand, Peace By Chocolate. During Friday’s store opening, a mask hid his smile. But, Hadhad’s eyes still sparkled.

“We wanted to translate our culture and our heritage into something so beautiful. So when you look in the arch, the turquoise, that translates into the colour in our ancient houses in Damascus,” Hadhad said.

Read more: Refugee chocolatier announces plans to ‘give back’ to Canada, hire 50 refugees by 2022

The chocolates come from a factory in the town of Antigonish, N.S., where the Hadhads settled after coming to Canada. Soon after he was sworn in as a Canadian citizen last year, the pandemic hit. Hadhad says it’s been stressful for his family. But, he says they have a different perspective than many Canadians. He says a bomb destroyed their original chocolate factory, in Damascus, in 2012.

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“Nothing compares to living in your house, in downtown Damascus at that time, and just waiting for an airstrike really,” Hadhad said. “It’s been really stressful for our family during the war. But, when the pandemic came, we are staying home, but, we are staying safe in our homes.”

Hadhad says investing in a new shop, at a time when many businesses are barely hanging on, is a testament to a perfect marriage: the idea of peace and the taste of chocolate.

Read more: ‘So proud’: Peace by Chocolate to open chocolate boutique in Halifax

“Peace is the noblest value on earth that everyone should fight for. And chocolate is a product of happiness, Chocolate makes happiness, right?”

Within two hours on opening day, more than 100 customers had arrived. Among them was Tanessa Holt, who works for another Halifax business that is partnering with Peace By Chocolate to trade products.

“He’s charming, he’s charismatic, he understands what he’s doing,” Holt said. “He creates a beautiful product. And he brings the community in and brings us together.”

Now that he’s added new flavours of chocolates, Hadhad plans to install a patio for the summer. And, he’s working to expand export networks, in time for a post-pandemic economy.


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