While everything from thrift stores to gourmet pet food shops have closed in the past couple months, two dessert palaces,The Chocolate Room and The Cocoa Bar, havenâ€™t had a problem navigating through the economic low tide.
Theyâ€™ve actually managed to grow.
â€œThe store next door is about ready to close,â€ said Lizzy Day, chef at the Chocolate Room, on Fifth Ave. â€œBut dessert is different and everybody wants it, all the time, even if they donâ€™t want to admit it. Weâ€™re not like the clothing stores around here where you have a choice of 12 in a small area. There are only two of us.â€
The Chocolate Room opened a new location on Court Street in Cobble Hill, which, like the original store, has about 200 customers a night.
â€œI think itâ€™s something many people find it worth the money to indulge in,â€ said Rebecca Cohn, a cashier and server at the Park Slope Chocolate Room for more than four years. â€œEven if they donâ€™t have a lot of money, they can have something small like a brownie or a sundae or even a drink.â€
Dishing out the comfort food, the staff at the Chocolate Room, wearing chocolate-colored, â€œI Love Chocolateâ€ shirts, adds even more ambiance to the small, dimly lit, yet cozy establishment.
â€œThe atmosphere here is great,â€ said Day. â€œWe also have a lot of locals who come here everyday and have coffee and read the paper. I think that says a lot about your company when people feel that comfortable somewhere.â€
Itâ€™s easy to feel comfortable when the aroma of brownies, cakes and ice cream greets you on your way in. The menu offers everything from Chocolate Rogue Stout beer to chocolate fondue. A full array of chocolate lollipops, cupcakes and cookies sit right next to the cashier as well, eager to be escorted out of the establishment.
“We wanted to create a refuge from the world,â€ said Naomi Josepher, co-owner of The Chocolate Room. â€œEveryone loves chocolate and weâ€™re happy to provide people with a little escape.â€
Unlike The Chocolate Room, which serves mainly chocolate-flavored items, the Cocoa Bar on Seventh Ave has expanded its menu in order to satisfy its growing clientele.
â€œOur customers spend a lot of time here and they started asking for sandwiches and other things,â€ said manager Masoud Soltani. â€œSo we started making fresh smoked salmon, chicken salad and smoked mozzarella sandwiches. Itâ€™s all about accommodating the people.”
They havenâ€™t forgotten what brings the customers in though.
â€œWe just baked some cookies and cake. People smell it and come in,â€ Soltani said. â€œWe know thatâ€™s the thing that makes us special in the community. I go to other coffee shops and see that the customer service isnâ€™t as good as ours. Our staff doesnâ€™t have to be forced to smile.â€
Much like the people that go to the Chocolate Room, the patrons at the Cocoa Bar are looking to unwind.
That, of course, is much easier when chocolate is involved.
â€œAfter a long day, this is so relaxing,â€ said Cocoa Bar customer Ana-Maria Fuenzalida, after sipping a glass of wine with a piece of Persian chocolate on her plate. â€œEveryone needs something sweet in their life. Weâ€™re all aware of the recession. We need a happy hour. This is mine.â€