We make and sell beautiful, delicious chocolates and confections. Malena Lopez-Maggi (mom), Clive Brown (pop), and a dedicated team of foodie artists have been making award winning chocolates at The Xocolate Bar on Solano Avenue since 2008. This is something of a magic trick because the shop is only 800 square feet and the kitchen is half that. It has always been a clown car-like operation, requiring humor and nimbleness to take part in the operational dance. At our peak in March 2020, we had a staff of 8 and a full calendar of on site tastings and off site events lined up. Then came the pandemic and the inevitable pivot.
Rather than shut down, we poured all our efforts into e-commerce and wholesale. Our wonderful customers generously pledged their support, ordering by phone and online for the first time. Our wonderful, die hard staff members stayed on through the entire pandemic, working in masked pods of 2 in the front and 2 in the back for safety. Happily, none of us ever got sick. We got tired, that’s for sure, but not sick.
Fast forward a year to this moment, when 2 of our 5 team members have gotten their vaccinations and indoor dining is on the verge of coming back. We know our customers want us to reopen but this is the catch:
Our storefront is now a mini warehouse and shipping station. Our kitchen is still a much too small kitchen. That leaves no space for customers to come in. In order to restore our storefront, we need to move the shipping to the back, which means moving the cooking to a new kitchen.
Why not a commissary? Chocolate is the most delicate and temperature sensitive material. It is incompatible with almost all other forms of food production, making it very difficult if not impossible to share space with other cooks. Believe us, we have tried.
So the way forward for us is to get a new kitchen for our exclusive use that will let us grow our e-commerce and wholesale while restoring our retail presence. When the pandemic finally ends, we will have room to host classes and tastings as well. This will create and preserve local jobs. All of this takes money.
Why don’t we use a PPP loan? In short, we didn’t qualify. Though our revenue matched the prior year, the underwriting didn’t take into account the increased operating costs we have taken on. Like shipping temperature sensitive merchandise and selling for wholesale rather than retail prices. Compound this with the highly seasonal nature of the chocolate business (our move would have to happen over the melting season, a time of great financial loss) and we just don’t have the budget to expand on our own.
So we turn to you, our community, to pitch in to our barn raising. That’s bigger than a clown car, right?
- Dyane Goldman
- Larry Madden
- Lara Walklet
- Anne Aleshire
- Jessie Black
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