Hello and good day!
Yesterday night, Sunday, my wife and I were working in the shop, doing some remodeling, when an excellent customer came by.
Our kids were sitting in the corner of our first shop watching a movie. We were busy moving stuff around. We're cutting down the retail space in our first shop to make more room for production.
It is still a very small production space, but we were able to just about double the available area for making stuff by moving a few things around.
My wife, Nery, was giving me directions and I was following her lead. When it comes to space, construction, carpentry, and design, I let Nery call the shots.
When the kids are grown and out of the house, Nery could easily become a general contractor and start a construction business. She has a natural talent for building things which, as an aside, our second child Levi has inherited from her.
Anyhow, things were pretty disheveled when the customer walked in. We'd put a sign on the door saying we were closed, but the door was unlocked. I was a little embarrassed that anybody would see the shop in that condition, but this gentleman was extremely gracious.
We put a pause on the work and got to chatting with our friend.He tried some samples, including some new products that we had out and bought a couple of items.
He told us how much he has enjoyed seeing our evolution and how much he really enjoys our products.While we were talking, he used my favorite word to describe how he felt about our company.
He appreciated that we aren't pretentious.
This is a man after my heart.Prior to 2020, we operated in a fairly pretentious industry. The high end culinary space is not known for its humility.
There were exceptions to this. We had some awesome customers who were genuinely humble, salt of the earth people.But a lot of folks we sold chocolate and cacao to were hoity toity to the max.
And we aren't hoity toity people.
So we never really fit in personality wise, even though our chocolate fit right in there as a high end, luxury chocolate.
There were several things I never felt comfortable with. First, I didn't like the idea of people eating our chocolate in some super fancy environment that would be totally foreign and intimidating to a cacao farmer.
Second, I didn't like the idea that companies were buying chocolate from us and then melting it down, molding it or using it confections, and selling it for $70 or $80 a pound.
We sell a 1.1 pound block of chocolate online right now for $19.95. It is the exact same chocolate that high end pastry chefs and chocolatiers have been using for more than a decade.
I didn't like that this price point made it inaccessible for most folks to consume our chocolate on a regular basis.It would always have to be a splurge for a special occasion, not something that could be enjoyed on any day, at anytime, and for any reason.
I knew that the economics of the situation didn't warrant that. I could see that we'd be able to continue to pay cacao farmers prices far above Fairtrade requirements while still offering a fair price to customers.
But the way we were distributing made that impossible. Fancy establishments are going to charge fancy prices. No way around it.
The third thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that kids would almost never get a chance to eat our chocolate.Our method of distribution was totally family unfriendly.
So when the pandemic hit, and restaurants were shut down, and we were forced to pivot to survive, we found ourselves with a golden opportunity to fully embrace our values. Luxury chocolate sold at a fair price and in a manner that is vastly more accessible.
Our website has pictures of our kids on it, out in our yards, holding the products. Our shops aren't fancy.
Our first shop is industrial. Our second shop is nicely designed and comfortable, but you don't feel like your kid is going to ruin the place.
I went into a high end chocolate shop about 2 months ago with my three sons to do some research.We were checking out their product offering and price points and ambiance. I felt like I had to keep a close eye on my kids and tell them not to touch anything.
The place was so fancy, I felt like we might break something valuable. I wouldn't want to go in there with kids again, too much pressure.
Our chocolatier Javier is a Mexican immigrant who comes from a humble background, and he has home cooking sensibilities.
That is perfect.
What we want is fair prices, fun, families, and delicious, unpretentious products. Products that both a sophisticated foodie and a kid can get excited about at the same time, for different reasons.
We want products that a cacao farmer could enjoy, and a tone and environment in our shops, such that a cacao farmer could walk in there without feeling out of place.
To have a customer comment on our unpretentiousness meant a lot. I'm glad he didn't see the sign saying we were closed and he came on in.
One last thought.
My dad grew up in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. My biological grandfather, Victor Wick, who died when my dad was just 4 years old, was a restaurateur. He owned a chain of diners called Vick's Diners. If Vick hadn't died, my dad and I would have been heirs to a growing restaurant chain, but things didn't turn out in that way.
Anyhow, Vick's Diners were known for their pies. We've got this great old picture of Vick Wick in an apron and a chef's hat with a sign behind him that says "Pies 10 Cents".
That is where we come from. We're midwestern pie folks. We're Peruvian cacao folks too. Both are humble, and gracious, and hospitable.
Nobody should ever feel intimidated by chicness, or be priced out of enjoying some of our chocolate.That goes deeply against who we are.
Anyhow, I am running out of steam now.
Thank you for your time.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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