After a great deal of research and planning, we are finally ready to pursue a second retail location for Intrigue Chocolate Co. The first location has been a big success (thank you, Pioneer Square!), but it is a lot to ask of one tiny shop to support itself, roughly 5 full time equivalent staff members, a kitchen, and a storage and admin office. A second location will allow us to reach more people and better utilize our existing kitchen capacity. The effort does come with a Costco-sized bag of excitement mixed with obstacles.
Where should we look?! Areas we are already excited about would be just off of Pike Place Market, South Lake Union, or Ballard. We have considered a Bellevue focus, but we don’t know that area very well (maybe you do?). Do we open another location in the Seattle area or start looking south to Tacoma, Olympia, or even Portland? North to Everett, Woodinville, Kirkland, or Bellingham?
We always have a big winter holiday and Valentine’s Day season, which is when most of the permanent residents or office professionals in the neighborhood come to the shop. But to sustain the shop all year we have great success with first time visitors; introducing them to truffles made with fresh herbs and spices, and encouraging them to take gifts home with them. We want to focus on that ideal mix of customers for our second location.
It would also be nice if the second location were close to transportation lines, like the light rail or an easy bus route. Relying on “destination” traffic is a lot of pressure for one small chocolate shop. Activated streets - browsing walkers and day-trippers with many small store fronts - are our bread and butter.
This is always a sticky issue for a small business. We decided to work with a financial consultant to help us understand our business better, and frame the conversation correctly for the bank. Pro tip: banks are much more interested in helping you manage existing cash flow, not exactly creating new cash flow. It’s a small distinction but an enormously important lesson for us, partly because it explains our past difficulty in conversations with the bank. Instead we’ve ended up leaning heavily on social fundraising like Kickstarter and Community Sourced Capital to grow our business. Now we want to build long term bank relationships, and learn to watch cashflow (as well as all the other business’s vitals) more closely.
We’d like this second location to be a bit more lenient about coffee and tea beverages. The Pioneer Square store is right next to a Starbucks which limits us per the lease agreements. Coffee is a complimentary medium for certain styles of experiencing flavor. For instance, a milk drink with some of our cardamom syrup can be even more appealing when the coffee is in the cup, too. Coffee is a natural extension to our in-store experience, so it makes sense to plan some room for it to expand in our new location.
So that’s the big news on that front. We’ll keep updating as we go, as we overcome hurdles, and when we finally sign that lease. Please keep your eyes open and let us know what you see out there that you think would be a good fit for Intrigue!