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Small Business Love in the Time of Corona

Small Business Love in the Time of Corona

As an independent food establishment, we have had to remain nimble to survive. It took Olympic level mental gymnastics to rewrite all of our processes for covid safety, and we continue to pivot to accommodate the brave new world of e-commerce and social distance. You can listen to my Community Connection interview with Nathan Pierce for more on that.

Though we have been lucky to be allowed to operate, it hasn’t been easy and it sure as hell hasn’t been profitable. We are all weary, at times hanging onto shreds of sanity as we try to parent and work and remain healthy through a global pandemic.

It started to get a little scary at the end of June, the end of chocolate season. You may or may not know that chocolate is a seasonal business-- sales decline 50-90% when the weather warms up. This has been true every year for the past 13 years we’ve operated. Entering low season in 2020 from a place of exhaustion and diminished revenue, I started to question whether we should carry on the struggle.

I sent this email to our mailing list, asking for help from our fan base.

The windfall of support was immediate and heartwarming. This neighborhood has our back. We got enough sales in 3 days to carry us through July, but the best part was the love letters. I wanted to share some of them here and say THANK YOU. The Xocolate Bar has always been a labor of love and it feels really good to see it reflected back.

The prompt was Dear Xocolate Bar, Please stay in business because…

You are my mother's favorite chocolate!

You make amazing chocolate and I hope you make it through this whole pandemic thing!

My mother *loves* your chocolate, and she is very picky, especially about chocolate. I know your business is bigger than just my mother loving your chocolate, but you are a ray of sunshine for her, and I'm sure she's not the only one.

I just placed my order and followed up with my friends! Thanks for the reminder email. I also appreciate you reaching out, as hopefully the community can help you make it through this and it's more likely that everyone can if we know when you need some purchases. I'm sorry that my order isn't bigger, but I hope every little bit helps, as your business is fantastic.

Best wishes during this difficult time.

Orianna

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Hang in there! These times are crazy but you and your delights bring us such joy and we look forward to decades more of Xocolate deliciousness!

We adore your confections and we deeply appreciate you!

See you soon in person we hope, and in the meantime, we’ll be ordering via mail!

Be well! Stay safe! And thank you for all the wonderful treats!

with much love and appreciation,

Sarah & Mark

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Thanks. I want to support you. You are the first chocolate business I have ever seen, us the word ‘decolonize’ and ‘chocolate’ in the same sentence! Do you ship beyond the SF Bay area? I’d like to do a social media support of your business and direct people there. I have a following of about 10,200 Instagram folk because of my emphasis on antiracism and how system racism is in embedded in the food system (and all the other systems), so, they’re always seeking out BIPOC owned business to support that have decolonial and/or social justice as their business model.

My son’s first chocolate experience was his first birthday. We went to your shoppe and he tasted it and his eyes lit up! It was actually BETTER than breastmilk (which is a lot to say because that was his liquid gold). He’s 11 now.

I would love to buy gift certificates for my children for their birthdays. That will definitely work.

Thanks for reading this.

Best

Breeze

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THANK YOU for being transparent and allowing your community to help you! It is so heartbreaking and angering when a favorite small business suddenly closes with no heads up that they were in trouble.

Hugs to you for all the challenges that you are persevering through, especially the little broken clavicle! Ugh, of all times for that to happen!! I will drop by one day (when I get paid again) with Frankie’s favorite little customer, Wynter, and hopefully you can sneak us some of those coconut macadamia truffles. Once this is all over, I hope our littles can meet and play. In the meantime, I’ll do all that I can to socialize your need and get you some support. We need you to keep making your life changing chocolate!

With love,

Adrienne

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..my husband and I buy each other your chocolates on special occasions! They're delicious and beautiful and something we look forward to. We've been enjoying your treats for years. I'm planning on stopping by next week to buy some more--no special occasion for us, but just to support your shop.

Hang in there!

Thank you,

Marla

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I just read your essay and think you're amazing! Thank you for the work you are doing in taking on the inequities and outright racism in your industry. I've been meeting with artists lately and we are likewise trying to root out, call out and fundamentally change the structural racism in the Art World as well. We all have a lot of work ahead of us but you're absolutely right, this is 2020 and it has to start happening now.

Thank you for being a leader and an amazing Xocolatier!

Michael

PS: I will be regularly stocking up for Julia (and myself) and have put the call out to friends and Xocolate lovers to support you all!

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I’ve long been a fan of The Xocolate Bar, especially your truffles, and I very much hope you stay in business.

To help, I’ve written a five-star Yelp review, bought a gift certificate, and have told many friends about you (none of my friends are rich, but chocolate bars aren’t that expensive).

I’ve long been trying to divest my life from exploitation, and since I became aware of slave labor in the chocolate trade many years ago, I’ve been buying fair trade organic chocolate. But you make good points in your essay. I’ll be even more careful choosing my bars.

In another way I need to be careful, I once bought a bar from you that caused me to lie away at night there was so much caffeine in it. It took me a few nights to figure out why I couldn’t sleep. I wish chocolate bar makers were required to state their bars’ caffeine content.

Anyway, hang in there! Chocolate is one of our remaining pleasures.

Regards,

John

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Your business is awesome and Albany wouldn't be the same without you.

Have you thought about possibly doing a chocolate subscription service where you mail out handpicked items to customers for a monthly flat fee? That might help overcome the harder summer months since you'll have a more consistent revenue stream. Just a thought. Hope you and the Xocolate team are doing well!

Best,

Jose***

I love you.

I will pick up my $65 in chocolate treats tomorrow. You deserve better, and I should buy more often. My old ass gets sick, so I don't eat the amount of chocolate that I once did.

It would break my heart if you closed.

From one Mexicana to another in Albany.

Abrazos,

Christina

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Hello there beautiful people!! This is an email to let you know I am doing what I can to support you and some other small businesses. I really believe in you and I will definitely buy a gift certificate or two for family peeps. And hopefully I will be successful in sharing you on social media. I will ask my 13 year old grandson to help me with that!

You have a wonderful business —- thanks for the level of care and mindfulness you put into everything you do.

Sara

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