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Starting a Commercial Location (Chocolate Shop)


chocoera
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Hi Erika,

Congrats. We are in very simular positions. We hope to open our store this Saturday. The last inspection will be Friday and then we get the official permit to open the front doors. I will post pictures soon of all the renos. We have a very small bay. It is 400 square feet but is suffice for now. Rents are still very expensive in my city and our parking rates are the second highest in North America. So any cost reductions such as square footage is helpful!! We plan to offer some different hot chocolates, and also a few frozen drinks.

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wowzers! that's really exciting prairiegirl! keep us up to date on any kinks or things you were really really glad you did, or daily successes you're proud of here...i'm rooting for you!

how many employees are you doing and what will your shop carry or provide? hmmm...you said hot chocolate is being served....care to educate?! :P

and to all my other lovely friends, thank you for the encouragement, i will keep you updated weekly on things going on. one thing i already am concerned about...i feel a storm brewing with our landlord...hopefully its nothing, but i'll let you know.....

*note: i feel that our landlord is trying to get out of his verbal/semi written lease commitment terms and raise our rent and not pay for one of the utilities as previously promised. we have things in writing, but he had yet to give us a legal document with both signatures on it, and we've been asking him about twice a week for the legal lease for a couple months now and he has yet to provide. oh, did i mention we just happen to be renting from a family acquaintance? it makes things all the more stickier..... wish us luck...better yet...pray for us please :)

but, i will be thankful for our new location and for family willing to help with all the grunt work! it is thanksgiving after all!!

happy thanksgiving!

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How fun... and how cool that you're letting us share the experience with you! Thanks!

I wouldn't worry about your landlord. You've got your team here rooting and praying for you. :smile:

Let us know how it all pans out. What an exciting adventure...

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That's fantastic, Erica! Congrats and best of luck!

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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Yesterday was the opening day and we put the "open" sign up. It was very slow for the first 2 hours or so because the neighborhood didn't believe it yet!! Plus we had a snow storm the day before and it took people time to come out of hibernation!! Word in the neighborhood got around and we got much busier. We offered hot chocolate drinks in which I use an induction hob and a bamix and it works great. When the day comes that I need the hot chocolate machine as mentioned somewhere in the postings, then we will buy it. I premixed the hot chocolate mix using 3 kinds..1) a regular dark hot chocolate 2) Ecuador with it fruity to floral flavours, and the 3) Mayan..spicy sort of drink. I not happy with this one yet and will switch over and use Mexican chocolate from the following source. Terra Spice carries this but I will contact the source directly for bulk. http://www.chocolatedeoaxaca.com.mx/2006.htm

Help Wanted: We hired 1 part time person. The journey began with advertising through an internet job site for about $300. The goes out into cyberworld and we started with Customer service. Well, I got alot of generic resumes in which everyone's goal is to be the next CEO of XXXX BAnk!! We received some other resumes and we interviewed several people. Instant elimination if the person never looked at my website. We did not get any vibrant magnetic personality types thru this job search and I realized that we should be posting our ad under a different category. We needed hospitality or restaurant. We ate at a diner a few times and my husband loved the service we got from the waitresses and that was the type of person(s) we were looking for. Got some more resumes from that, a few that are okay. Finally, we put a help wanted on the front window and it stayed there for 3 weeks during the renos. We were bombarded with resumes and some of them stellar. We hired a 17 year old grade 12 girl and she is amazing. She is very artistic and great with people so she busy reorganizing the store and making the displays much prettier before we got busy. She wants to study at Parson's next fall. The other person I am eyeing for part time is possibly an 18 year recent highschool graduate guy who worked at Starbucks for awhile over the last few years. Very outgoing and loves to challenge people to try something new. We did have some mature adults who we interviewed and could be a consideration but I am leaning towards the young. Why? These kids have the right personality, they love chocolate, but most importantly they have previous retail experience and the retailers they worked for have trained them extremely well on how to sell...suggestive selling etc., and also with customer service.

We did not know if we would open Saturday so now I need to scramble and get large plates/bowls/baskets etc. as we received requests from the customers. I will post pictures when I get a chance. Must run.It's time for church!

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wow prairiegirl, i'm so happy for you! glad to hear the first couple days went over well, and that you found great help (that is also a concern for me) are you in a small town or larger city? i considered the web resume thing, but since we're a small town, i might do word of mouth or personally scout someone (i have my eye on a 17 yr old that loves to bake and is going to pastry school when she graduates) she's kinda shy, but i believe she would open up once she gets comfortable....i'm thinking 2 part time employees to start and then seasonal help....

how did you hot chocolates go over? well? would love to see pictures and hear more stories! thanks for your advice and wish you continued success!

*did more work on the store...got flooring mostly put in. my new name for VCT (vinyl composite tile) is now very crappy torture :) but the laminate wasn't quite as bad!

pics and narrative to come soon! :)

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Just got a baby shower invite for a shower to be held at a Let Them Eat Chocolate. I never heard of it before, but here's the link for comparison. http://www.letscoco.com/ The shower is Jan 10. I'll let you know how it goes.

Interesting - Belgian and gourmet vegan chocolates.

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here are some updated photos! the first one is of bradley's area. he's not shooting there, but wanted a place to display albums, prints, etc and meet with people in a comfortable but impressive setting. the other photos are of the kitchen, front retail area, hallway with bathroom between me and brad, two more of retail area, and the last is a room just off the kitchen, which will be the cooling room. we are putting in a portable air conditioner that can keep it as low as 60 if desired with built in humidity controls. we'll install shelving all through the room for chocolates as well as finished goods to move onto the floor. we're framing out the door but using like a "butcher plastic" as a door.

as you can tell, flooring was completed, we used VCT *the brown tile* and warm maple laminate. also started on the crown. note to self: if you have a bigger budget than me, i would consider having the flooring professionally done. i feel like we did a great job, but the bruised knees, glued skin, buckets of sawdust, frustrating cutting process with the VCT, dealing with uneven walls with the laminate, and the FOUR layers of wax and sealer needed, applied on your hands and knees, may not be worth the money you save. granted, we have a tiny budget, so we're doing as much work as physically possible, but if you have a short timeframe, then you should for sure hire someone for flooring, as the frustration and man hours needed were unexpected.

as for flooring choices though, i think we chose well, it fits the space well and we have commercial warranties on both products. try to get all your flooring from one store, especially a private owned store, and you're bound to get a quantity or loyalty discount from them...especially in this economy. and we didn't get it right away, we were blunt and just asked...and there ya go :)

for this weekend, we are building the sit up chocolate bar so that our granite guys can install the counters sometime this week. i will post a photo as soon as we're done! also on the list...finish crown, finish baseboard, install at least 2 of the 4 doors, touch up paint on crown and base and door moldings, and finish the bar. (i can tell you dimensions later if you want!) we are wallpapering the bathroom this monday and the plumber comes to hook up some things this tuesday!

we're chugging along...so thanks for the support!

oh, as for the landlord problem? well the power of prayer is amazing. he stayed with offer #2 in that he is no longer paying for electrical :( but he compromised and dropped rent $100 from the original offer and $200 from offer #2 !! he also agreed to clean up his computer stuff downstairs (he is a HUGE packrat) and we also nailed down a 3 yr term, with FOUR 1-yr renewals (if we want them) with same lease and only a 2% inflation rent increase!! and to top it off, he MAY (not sure yet) considering selling us the building in 7-10 yrs (which, when we asked before, he said NO WAY!) :0)

so i'm amazed, it looked seriously hopeless for while, but thanks for your thoughts and prayers, it worked!

BEJ_0278.jpgBEJ_0280.jpgBEJ_0281.jpg

BEJ_0282.jpgBEJ_0285.jpgBEJ_0286.jpgBEJ_0291.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

Somehow I missed the last set of pictures. It's looking great! Any new updates? How about you prairiegirl (Deb!)? You must be busy beyond belief in this Christmas season with a storefront!

I've been dipping so much that my hand seized a little yesterday. I can't imagine producing enough - by hand - for a storefront. Ouch!

Can't wait to hear more from both of you...

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The place looks great! I hope everything comes in on time for you. I especially love the pictures with the commode in the hallway!

What kind of sign-off do you need from the local government before you can open? Do you need to have the "kitchen" inspected for a license?

Steve Lebowitz

Doer of All Things

Steven Howard Confections

Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody's going to get hurt - Alton Brown, "Good Eats"

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sure do :)

and sorry the pics have been delayed, we had like a 2 day blizzard so my granite guys were delayed and they are coming the day we area leaving to go see inlaws for holidays. but after christmas i will be able to update the joys and perils of opening the biz and will post updated pics!

as for the license, i had erik, the 2009 kossuth county inspector (but he's getting transferred in 2010 to new county, so he won't be the guy to give my official ok, so i didn't feel like i was cheating...just being smart about it!) come in this last friday and do like a pre-test for me so i could better be prepared for the real inspection, which has to be 7-10 days before your opening date. already paid the $303.75 fee and did the paperwork and just waiting for my final ok. but my "pre-test" went great, a couple things to fix, and things i didn't even realize i needed to do were discussed, but he loves the facility and thinks i'm on the right track! (ps: appliances are in and have been hooked up, so he got the full effect when going through the entire store)

and then i need to have my sales tax id, my biz id (sole proprietor so its my social security number) and also need my food/retail license and inspection (the $303), my native wines license (about 1/4 the cost of a retail national wine license, about $125 or so) and my employer id since i will be employing some part time help.

will write more later...but if you have any other questions, let me know and i will do my best to answer them!!!

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I have been working all night and sleeping all day for the last 5 days!! Every day more people discover the chocolate store.

that's awesome though!!! but wait....if you're sleeping during the day, who's at the store? :)

noticed any best sellers yet? what do you love most about the store being open? and when you get a chance to eat, breathe and sleep a bit more, would love some photos!

congratulations though!!

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My husband handles the retail store. I do my production at another location and it works better for me to go in at night and do larger production runs. During the day the pastry chef is in doing all his production.

If you go to my website the bestseller is the Tahitian blonde which a Grand Cru natural vanilla in a pyramid mold. Norman Love is correct in saying that colours sell. That is also the case with us. People hate to eat a nicely decorated chocolate because of it's beauty!! We say eat up and buy more!!

We are a busy household with 4 kids. The two younger are 12 and 13 years old and they both play competitive soccer. So during the day I am busy driving them to school and then getting at least one of them to soccer!! We have some part time staff that take over at 4pm so my husband can get home, eat , and then drive to a soccer practice/game etc!!

We have been open for about a month and people keep discovering us every day. this week has been slow as it is a holiday time. We find that the store is quiet until about noon and then business picks up in the afternoon. Our challenge is to get proper advertising out and I will use a variety of sources. For example, Kijiji, and even Bargain Finder. Anywhere that I can get free advertising. I also kave some connections with radio personalities locally, and I will contact these people to see what they suggest and what they are able to do over the airwaves.

Another challenge is to speed of my production time. Much of what I do is so artisan that it is swallowing up too much time and I am not producing the quantity I would like. Airbrushing with different colours is time consuming and then swapping out differnet chocolate is also a time factor. Making purees is also a time factor. But it is what differentiates me from all others. We have tried chocolate all over the Western Canada and Oregan and Seattle and nothing really compares with what I am making in flavour.

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