YES! It is true! We have signed a new lease at a NEW location! We are extremely excited and can't wait to get there! Where is it??? Well.... I want to start out by talking about our current location. We have been located in the Hamilton County Business Development Center since October 2008. I have a lot of customers who ask us WHY we are here and I want to make sure everyone knows that answer.
When I started the process of looking for a location for my business...I found that it was no easy thing to decide. In fact, it was super hard! I wanted it to be the perfect spot! Finally, I found a tiny space in Coolidge Park that I felt was perfect for us. After spending countless hours of planning and contacting the various inspectors and workers to get quotes... the bad news hit me. POW!, right in the stomach. I was told by the building inspectors that I would need to spend about $40,000.00 to bring that space up to code before I could even move in. That does not even include the many other inspection fees... or the air conditioning unit I would have needed to install, etc. I had to turn it down.
Heartbroken, I didn't know what to do. I was told by Elijah Cameron of The Chattanooga Opportunity Fund (where we got a small business loan) to talk to Kevin Maxfield at the Tennessee Business Development Center. Kevin immediately started to help. He got me in touch with the Director of the Business Development Center, Kathryn Foster, and she started showing me spaces that were available to start up businesses. In my heart I wanted to have a storefront but with the amount of money we would be saving to start in the BDC, it made it a safe and smart decision to make. They offer reduced rent for new small businesses, small business counseling is offered, etc. Because I started on a very tight budget...meaning we put everything we had into this business and then some... Brandon and I decided that it was wise to start off in the BDC and "incubate" for a few years.
After moving in, we became VERY busy! I have worked at the shop full time while Brandon has kept another full time job and has even taught at UTC and Chattanooga State on top of coming to the shop in the evenings and helping me out. We have worked MANY LONG days! Sometimes even 18 or 19 hours to fill orders and stock our shelves! Sometimes we have had to recruit our amazing family and friends to help us out. We have grown quickly and a few months ago were able to hire two lovely ladies to help us out. It has been very tough and we have had ups and downs but it has been worth every minute of it. We still feel like there are bigger and better things in our future!
Just before Christmas, renovation began on the BDC, making it even more difficult for our customers to find us. The big old ugly building that we moved in is now even uglier! BUT in a few more months it will become an extremely nice facility. Offering even more spaces for small businesses to begin. Now that our time is nearing it's end at the BDC, we are very very thankful for our customers finding their way to our shop. It is very flattering and we extremely appreciate their support through all of this! We cannot do it without you!
We have been looking for the perfect store front to finally move into for a long time now. This has been a very tough decision to make and has taken a long time! We conducted a poll online to see just where our customers thought we would best be located. Majority wanted us on the North Shore followed by the Southside. We love both areas. We looked at multiple locations in both areas and finally found a beautiful shop. It is also affordable for us and we will be able to have our manufacturing onsite with our shop, which was very important to us. We are moving to MAIN STREET! Our future shop is located at 201 West Main Street at the corner of Main St. and Williams St. Right next to our previous neighbors who also started out in the BDC, Townsend Atelier. We will also be next door to the Wednesday Main Street Farmer's Market with free parking on Williams Street and in the lot next door. The shop will be ready for us to move in hopefully by May!
We have learned A LOT in this short 2 1/2 years we have been open and have much to be thankful for. It isn't easy to start a business. We love what we do and we know that over time things will get easier for us. Chocolate is a tough product to work with...but it is our passion. We strive to make the best chocolates for our customers and will continue to do so on Main Street! Wish us luck!