April 6 was a bittersweet day for MAD about Chocolate, a local chocolate bakery and cafe located on Armistead Avenue. Earlier in the week, the shop’s owner, Mike Riordan, announced that it would be closing due to financial constraints but would reopen online with a different business model.
According to Riordan, the cafe’s closing day was successful — there was no chocolate left hours before the store’s closing.
“It’s been an amazing day. We had a record day,” Riordan said. “Aside from the money aspect of it, it was good to see a lot of our base customers come in and wish us well, express their feelings of gratitude if you want to call it that, some were sort of anxious to see where we end up.”
Additionally, the cafe’s furniture was on sale, and loyal customers and community members spent the last week stopping by to pick up eclectically colored chairs and tables.
Although MAD about Chocolate’s storefront is closed, and Riordan has no immediate plans to reopen at another location, he said he plans to revamp the cafe’s website to set up an online and delivery business model for the Williamsburg community.
Riordan said that although he enjoyed working as the owner of the shop for the last two years, location would matter most if he considered opening another brick and mortar store.
“I’d have to do a lot of research, the location would have to be almost perfect,” Riordan said. “We still have the website; it’s gone dark until we can reorganize. My inclination is that in this town, we need to do mail order, catering or delivery, but we’re not ruling out store front.”
The storefront at 204 Armistead Ave. will not be empty for long — another food service establishment plans to open by mid-May.
Jessica Bimstein ’19, one of the cafe’s student employees, said that she enjoyed working at the cafe because it was a positive and flexible environment to work in.
“Overall, it was extremely positive,” Bimstein said. “I’ve worked a lot of jobs before, especially in retail, and this was by far the best job I’ve ever worked. I enjoyed going in there every day. … I think it was just because it was a small, family-owned business instead of a corporate chain which is what I am used to. It felt kind of more like a family.”
Bimstein said that all of the employees became close with each other, and would frequently watch Jeopardy together as a bonding activity while working. These employees are what she said she would miss most.
“Probably my favorite thing is that there is a TV in the store and every single weekday at 3:30, Jeopardy comes on from the night before and we would all freak out about it and make sure we were watching it and we would answer the questions,” Bimstein said. “… I’m going to miss the people. … On my last day we blasted that song, ‘Closing Time’ at the end of the day and it was a little emotional.”
Bimstein also said that she was very thankful she got to work with the same people every day, as she got close with the other fulltime employees, the chocolatier and the baker. She said that Riordan was always very kind and flexible toward student employees as well.
While he prepares his new business model, Riordan said that he will reflect on his time owning the café.
He praised his clientele as he recalled some of his favorite memories from events hosted there.
“Overall, our clientele is for the most part fantastic,” Riordan said. “We had a couple of different events here. One was just a wine and chocolate event, where [the cafe] has been maxed out with 28 or 30 people here. It was a nice setting and a nice time.”