By Haley Savage
Larry Bradley sits in his office, his laptop sitting open on the desk. The desk itself is overflowing with books, folders, and paper, and on the floor sits a box filled with bags of chocolate chunks. Bradley sits casually in his chair wearing a button up shirt and jacket, khaki pants, tennis shoes, and a UO baseball cap. He’s relaxed and friendly, talking animatedly about his experience at his new business and about some of his other interests. It’s easy to listen to Bradley speak; he tends to take the scenic route to the point of his stories, giving out a wealth of unexpected information.
Larry Bradley is the owner of Chocolate Decadence, a vegan, gluten-free chocolate manufacturing company based in Eugene’s Trainsong neighborhood. When he’s not working, Bradley is a chairperson at Serenity Lane, a drug and alcohol abuse treatment center. He is also writing a book about childhood Leukemia after the disease appeared twice in his family.
Bradley bought Chocolate Decadence a year and a half ago, after previously having been in retirement and halfway through writing a book. “I made some bad investments, and all of a sudden they went bad and it’s like ‘oh my gosh I gotta go back to work,’” he said. Bradley decided to buy a local business, so he Googled “businesses for sale in Eugene, Oregon” and found Chocolate Decadence. He was impressed with the chocolate, but not with the packaging, marketing, or outdated website that came with it. “I just looked at it and said, ‘here’s a good product that is not appreciated, not really known, and it has some good qualities,’” Bradley said. He bought the company and, upon his arrival, they repackaged the product, built a new website and came up with a new marketing strategy. His wife Mary Lou has been supportive of his new business and the work he’s put into it. “He’s got a really good business sense and very creative ideas,” she said. “If anybody can make that business work, Larry can.” In the year and a half since he bought the company, it’s revenue has nearly doubled. He’s constantly aware of what’s going on around him, keeping one eye on the factory outside his office window. He turns to look at loud noises, and keeps his ears open for the door to the small retail section of the building. An employee pokes his head in the office, and Bradley jokes with him, his smile wide and laugh loud.
In the 1970′s, Bradley’s nephew was diagnosed with Leukemia, a disease which then had an 85 percent mortality rate. 10 years later, the disease killed him. In 1996, Bradley’s own son, Chris, was diagnosed with the same Leukemia, but this time the disease had an 85 percent survival rate. His son survived, and now lives in France, where he teaches English and has published a bilingual children’s book. Because of these two experiences, Bradley decided to write a book about the advances in childhood Leukemia treatment over the 20 or so years between his nephew and son’s diagnoses. He had spent time researching and got halfway through the writing process when he had to put it aside and buy Chocolate Decadence. He plans to pick it back up soon, though. “I am motivated by my son… he’s doing different book signings in different bookstores here, and I look at that and I think ‘that’s the world I want,’” Bradley said.
Despite his nearly 75-hour weeks at Chocolate Decadence, Bradley still finds time to volunteer at Serenity Lane in Eugene. Bradley was a drug user by the time he was 14 years old and, after struggling in college, went into treatment at Serenity Lane in 1984. “Since [getting treatment] he’s been a great father, a great provider, worked really hard, and now he gives back… and it’s been very beneficial to him,” said Mrs. Bradley, whom he married in 1980. This Memorial Day weekend will mark his 28th year sober. “That’s a big part of who I am, and it drives a lot of the things I do,” Bradley said. He is currently on the board of trustees at the treatment facility and spends a lot of his free time volunteering there.
Bradley plans to continue building the chocolate factory and widening the customer base. He will continue volunteering at Serenity Lane and hopes to get back to writing his book this summer. “When I do check out, I want to be able to look back and look at the kids with cancer and look at the alcoholics that needed help, and look at the other things in life, and that to me is, that’s what life’s about.”