Serving our loyal customers gives us hope in this time of great uncertainty.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has hit The Chocolate Room, like all New Yorkers, very hard. With all restaurants forced to close for dine-in service and a citywide stay-at-home mandate, we were forced to make difficult decisions. By March 18, we had closed our 5th Avenue café and had laid off 14 employees. As a food service business, we were deemed "essential", and thus allowed to stay open. Our core team of four remained: husband, wife, brother, and our executive chef. We debated the central predicament: health vs finances. Like a family, we vacillated daily. Some of us feeling health needed to come first, while others feeling no income would devastate our personal lives, as well as the brand that we'd spent over a decade building. As expected, we all felt differently on different days. Each time we approached total existential despair, the two things that kept us going were one, the knowledge that we had built a successful business that we did not want to see closed, and two, the belief that during this challenging time, people would continue to desire chocolate, and, more importantly, the warm, friendly handmade experience we offered in our cafés.
It was with those convictions that we moved forward with our business, on Court St. only, and with limited hours. One chef and three of us to run the walk-in and delivery business. The first few days were filled with endless questions. Inside the shop, we felt focused and inspired to work hard, even as the curve of the virus's spread was peaking. We had no idea what a day would bring. We questioned risk vs reward. We felt very uncertain in our decisions, as there were no answers. But customers supported us from the first day of the city mandates. Our phones rang. People asked if we were open; they ordered their familiar comfort foods from our dessert menu. Eventually this new way of life settled in. It gave us hope to keep going.
So, how are we doing eight weeks later? While our revenue is still insufficient to cover the majority of our bills, it is allowing us to pay small payments to the most pressing accounts. Though we're not sure what the future will bring, we are working daily to bend with this new curve, to be resilient, to innovate, to create new products that will benefit our brand. We're having discussions with each account, each landlord, each vendor, doing what we can to get through another day. Our loyal guests continue to support us. They're coming to buy a favorite hand-crafted chocolate, a cake to celebrate a newborn, a birthday, a graduation. They're taking a much needed walk down Court Street for some ice cream. They're stopping in to see a familiar face—albeit behind a mask—that they've been greeted with for over a decade, someone they know will care. They're here to rekindle the joy of being a little indulgent, the childlike fun, the feeling of normalcy. Thank you for being here, they say. Thank you for being open. Thank you! Such wonderful words from people willing to wait on the sidewalk as we help one guest at a time.
As we continue to witness our world react to this moment, it feels gratifying to offer people a product that brings joy and a moment of normalcy. We're touched by the front-line stories we hear from EMTs, doctors, and nurses that come in to our shop. We're grateful our business has been able to survive and bring smiles during this moment of chaos. Thank you to all who have supported us in so many ways, from thoughtful emails, to calls and texts, to ordering online, to walking into our shop. With our mission continuing to bring joy and connections with people, we're staying strong and looking forward to our next chapter. We look forward to seeing you!