I have long been a fan of the Chocolate Bar, Alison Nelson’s store/café on Eighth Avenue between West 12th and Jane. But when I learned that they were closing, citing a dip in business due to construction on their street, I was downright pissed.
Yes, it’s tough as hell to run a business in this town. Rents are ridiculous, and New Yorkers have so many other options to choose from. But the Chocolate Bar seemed to have figured it out.
They were originally located just up the street, on the other side, before relocating to the tiny storefront at 19 Eighth Avenue. I assumed the new location made more sense for them. And the fact that they were adding stores in equally expensive cities like Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai (in addition to a store in New Jersey, they now have seven shops in the Middle East and one in Melbourne) made it seem like they were doing more than alright.
Yet they have closed up shop here in New York City. Sure, I can still order their incredible chocolate-covered Oreo’s via their surprisingly crappy Web site, but it’s just not the same.
Perhaps the crappiness of their Web site should have been an indication that not all was well? In this day and age, you need something more functional – and with a little effort on the SEO front.
And how can you invest in shops in other expensive cities if you can’t make it work here in New York City? If you can make it here, you can… Look, for all I know, maybe they sold franchise rights to these other shops in an effort to prop up the NYC flagship?
I don’t feel like New York City failed the Chocolate Bar. I feel like the Chocolate Bar failed New York City. Sure, it’s a tough town – dog-eat-dog and all that. And culinary genius doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with business acumen. But there’s no reason that the Chocolate Bar should have failed. Not in this town. Not during this gastronomic renaissance.
Imagine if they had invested some of that overseas expansion money in a proper Web site? One that attracted traffic (a chocolate blog?) and was optimized for search engines? A little marketing to get on the local foodie radar, let alone become a draw for tourists? After all, they were only a few blocks south of the High Line and the uber-popular Meatpacking District.
Speaking of location, if construction on the street was dampening traffic, why not move? It wouldn’t have been the first time. And imagine what kind of business they’d do if they opened up a stall in a place like Chelsea Market? Or got involved with Smorgasburg (Dough used this avenue to open up a shop in the Flatiron, with lines down the block for a $2.25 doughnut) or any of the other food-centric destinations popping up around our city? Or even just put a kiosk on the High Line, to drive traffic down to the shop?
Instead, the Chocolate Bar has closed its doors. The New York flagship is no longer an option. It looks like all of their other shops are still operational, so maybe I can at least enjoy some chocolate-covered Oreos when I’m in Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. And, of course, you can always order online. But with all the options for immediate gratification we have to choose from here in New York City, online is always the last option when it comes to treats like these.