MERIDEN — Today, Thompson Chocolate has 72 employees working to produce about two million pounds of chocolate annually. Of those employees, 53 are Latino, making up most of the workers behind creating the brand’s signature chocolate products sold at the 80 South Vine St. factory store and around the country.
Sonia Ronan, 55, has worked at Thompson Chocolate for 18 years. Ronan is Puerto Rican and has lived in Meriden for 38 years with her husband, raising her seven children and nine grandchildren. Her youngest child is 26, and her oldest is 38.
“It’s a blessing for me to work at Thompson and put in the work so people can try good chocolate,” Ronan said.
Ronan operates a few of the machines in the factory, creating and wrapping the chocolate creations the company has sold for over 140 years. She started working in the office in operations at Thompson Chocolate in 2005 but soon moved on to working in the shipping department in the factory.
After working six years in shipping, Ronan continued to work on the machines that aid in creating the company’s products, like chocolate eggs and coins wrapped in foil. She also spent some time working at the Thompson Chocolate store.
“The teams when you’re working are so nice,” Ronan said. “Working about 10 hours a day is sometimes hard, but it gives me an opportunity to work, and I like it because you’re working for people to try the chocolate and you do the best that you can for this item to look good, to taste good and to be safe because people love the chocolate here. I hear it all the time for generations. Thompson is here for a lot of years, and when I’m here I feel like it’s a blessing. I also know that this company has helped a lot of people for many, many years.”
Over the years, Ronan has developed close relationships with her coworkers like Keila Ojeda, 45, who also works the machinery at the factory.
“One thing that I like about working at the company is that it’s like a family,” Ronan said.
Like Ronan, Ojeda is Puerto Rican and has worked at Thompson Chocolate for 20 years. She has lived in Meriden for 16 years and has five children and three grandchildren. Her youngest is 18 years old, and her oldest is 31.
“I like making chocolate for people at Thompson, and I feel very happy because it has been 16 years working with good people and camaraderie,” Ojeda said.
Ojeda agrees with Ronan that working at Thompson is like working with people they consider to be family.
“I love the job because it’s all family,” Ojeda said. “Working about eight hours a day, five days a week, being around family is always good.”
After their shifts, Ronan and Ojeda like to spend their time away from the machines differently. Ojeda likes to cook for her children and dance the bachata, salsa and merengue with her husband.
Ronan likes to spend time at social events on the weekends and use her earnings from the factory to travel around the world now that her children are grown. Last year, Ronan visited Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, and plans to travel to Cancún, Mexico, in April.
“I like to work, but all my kids are grown, so when I have the opportunity, I like to travel to different places, and I have gotten the opportunity every year to go to different places,” Ronan said.
Since both Ronan and Ojeda work together to produce quality chocolate, they agree that their favorite part of the Thompson Chocolate company is seeing people try their chocolate creations.
“A lot of people taste the chocolate and buy it, and I know they try very, very good chocolate,” Ronan said.
Ronan said she saw many new people enter the company last year, but the workers at Thompson Chocolate always treat everyone like family.
“Everybody’s family. So if you don’t understand something, no worries. You can ask for help. Don’t feel afraid,” Ronan said. “We treat you like family.”