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!
Diana Robbins says…
Seems like Columbia City would be a fun place to open a second location – and it would be easy access for existing employees maybe as well as supply runs.
Tacoma needs a good chocolate shop – but then you have to consider the distance for support and transport.
Whatever you decide, it’s exciting to watch the growth from tiny kitchen/shop to new locations and product!
on August 13, 2017
So happy to hear about a second shop! How about downtown Edmonds? I too have heard a lot about Tacoma. Lots of Seattle restauranteurs are opening locations in Tacoma. If you do consider it, let me know as I have some GREAT contacts there.
on August 10, 2017
Your name says…
Please seriously consider Tacoma. The food scene down here is amazing! Look at the success of Viva and several other Seattle big name restaurants that are opening 2nd locations down here! The Ruston waterfront is blooming into a haven for great people to gather. On a selfish personal note, I would love tasting night to be near me not in Seattle!
on August 02, 2017
Look in areas outside of Seattle that are growing and more easy to get to. Locations such as Maple Valley 4 Corners area or Issaquah in the old downtown section or Gillman Village
on August 01, 2017
We’d love it if you opened a shop in our ‘hood: Columbia City! Lots of foot traffic, community spirit and with favorite chocolates plus our favorite baguette in the same neighborhood, well, that’d be almost like living in France. ;)
Portland would be our choice for a new location. The food scene there is more lively than here in Puget Sound. A downtown location would be right at home with stores like The Meadow which started there and now have opened a second location in Greenwich Village, NYC. Another benefit to Portland, Amtrak goes regularly between SEA & PDX – would not even need a car to get stuck in traffic!
Have you considered The Junction in West Seattle? There is a metric ton of residential / retail buildings going up and has become somewhat of a “destination” for travelers looking to get off the beaten Seattle path. The area also seems to embrace the artisan exploration experience. Just a thought, but I’m biased and wouldn’t mind seeing my Intrigue friends and their tasty concoctions more.
on July 23, 2017
1) I think you would reach more new customers by getting a bit further away from Pioneer Square.
2) The awesome flavor alchemy might jive well with the wine scene of Woodinville (or nearby). Also beer, spirits, etc.
3) From a financial perspective, Snohomish county might be worth consideration for the reduced taxes (full disclosure: I live in SnoCo, ~7 mi from the “Woodinville”-but-really-in-“Grace” Costco)
4) If your kitchen is not at capacity, you could also consider farmer’s markets, or selling certain products through other small venues (tasting rooms, produce stands, etc.)
on July 21, 2017
I feel like this would do well in Snohomish! Ether on first street (lots of walking traffic on weekends, decent parking, no similar businesses currently) or up Bickford in one of the shopping centers (there’s just a cupcake shop over there, that’s the closest thing to chocolate shop!)
There are quite a few spaces available for lease along 1st!
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