Six years ago when Ryan Novak told Bonnie Hanyak, founder of The Chocolate Pizza Company in Marcellus, that he would one day own her store, he was only half kidding.
He was 15 at the time, and first starting as an employee. Now, as a 21-year-old with one semester left at Syracuse University, he's the bona fide owner of the unique chocolate shop once featured on Food Network's hit show "Unwrapped."
"It's such a great business, such a great idea," he said. "It's so nice to just be able to bring joy to people."
Owning The Chocolate Pizza Company has been a dream of Novak's for as long as he can remember. It didn't hurt that, as a kid, the shop was located across the street from his home on South Street.
"When I was six or seven I would go over there and look for samples," he said. When he was a toddler his mother would take him around the store in a stroller, and he'd reach for chocolate from there.
Hanyak will stay on as store manager at least until Novak finishes his business degree at SU. She is retiring to spend more time with her family; her husband had a heart transplant a year ago, from which he has recovered well.
"Owning a business doesn't allow you a whole lot of free time, and I'm sure Ryan can verify that already," she said.
Hanyak admits selling the store to Novak was not a quick decision.
"After much thought and consideration, I absolutely feel that he's going to be able to take this to the next level that I could not," she said.
Novak is a dean's list student at SU's Whitman School of Management where he will finish his bachelor's in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises in December. He was a place kicker for SU football for two years -- and a top 25 recruit among kickers when he graduated from Marcellus High School in 2006.