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  1. Hey all. If anyone is interested, we still have some spots available in our chocolate class on Wednesday, March 16th from 7-9 PM in our Arlington shop. It's a whole lot of fun and you go home with a bunch of chocolates that you'll decorate yourself (along with other goodies). We discuss how chocolate is made (bean-to-bar), how we make our bonbons, a bunch of tasting of Valrhona chocolate, hands-on decorating, etc, etc... In any case, the class is normally $85/pp, but would be $75/pp for anyone on DR.com. If interested, please PM me here to make the reservation, or email me at jason@artisanconfections.com . Don't call the shop, as it will result in confusion. Hope we can get a few more to sign up, it always makes the class more lively! Cheers, Jason Note: Please feel free to post this on the events page or grab a couple of friends. Spots are limited, so please let me know ASAP.
  2. Last I heard Wilhelm took a job doing R&D at King Arthur Flour up in VT. I think they moved up there in 2011 or 2012. Rural Vermont sounded like a nice change of pace from the DC Metro area. Yeah, running a chocolate business in general is pretty tough. I think you'd have to rely on a lot of wholesale business if you were in an industrial park in Manassas. Lower margins which would need to be made up with large volume. Retail isn't much easier, as the margins are higher, but my overhead is much, much more. Sometimes I wish I had stayed in the ski travel business.
  3. Yeah, sorry. I got carried away.. Sounds like you need to get some friends that know how to share! Next time you're in Arlington, introduce yourself. (I'll hook you up)
  4. Speaking from my experience (both in retail and restaurant), i think looks can be deceiving. For restaurants, I am sure that bodies in seats is probably the best way to gauge how a restaurant is doing. Weekends are key. For retail, it is a lot different. Regarding Mosaic, the traffic is pretty slow at certain times of the day (and this holds true at most places). On the weekdays, we seems to be busiest from noon-2 PM and then 5 PM-7PM. O the weekends we see much more traffic (mainly Fri and Saturday) and we stay open a hour later on those days. However, for us at least, so much is dependent on how much people are spending. This has been our biggest issue at Mosaic, as we will see a fair amount of customers come into the shop, but I'd say only about 70% of them actually make a purchase. Of those that make a purchase, the average sales ticket at Mosaic is about half as what it is in Arlington. At Mosaic, we get a lot of browsers, people buying single pieces, maybe something under $10, etc...At the end of the day, it can very good, just ok, or downright bad in regards to total sales. A couple of larger purchases can make a big difference in the daily sales total. In Arlington, we are much more of a 'destination' location, so we see fewer retail customers, but they tend to spend a lot more money. Very, very rarely does someone come into the Arlington shop and not buy anything. I say our conversion rate there is well over 95%. However, and this is going to paraphrase a PM I had with Don. We can't rely on just retail to make it. We are in the gift-giving business, not so much the "immediate consumption/food business". I sort of equate our situation to be very much like a florist. Retail is part of it, but the florist survives on events/weddings/etc.. The majority of our sales come from corporate gifts, events, caterers, weddings, online purchases, some hotels, etc... --big orders that nobody would really know about by just walking by our retail shops. The holidays are HUGE for us (about 30% of our annual gross sales in about 4 weeks).Valentines Day is very good as well for the retail side. We are very seasonal and generally take a loss in the summer months. It becomes a big money management thing as most of our income comes in from Nov-May. We then have to make those funds last through the slow period. This time of year (as we gear up for the holidays), it is a lot of spending on packaging , raw ingredients, labor. I max out my credit cards and use a bank line of credit to make it through until the end of the year. Then I pay everything off on Dec 31st and we start the cycle over again. Needless to say, this is a stressful time for me, as we rely so much on the holidays, that if we were to lose a couple of big accounts, or there was a massive snowstorm on December 20th, we'd be screwed. (I'm looking at you, El Nino ). Anyway, probably more info then you wanted, but I just want to explain my situation and how just because we may not be busy on the retail front, doesn't mean we aren't doing okay as a business. The thought behind the Mosaic shop was to have another brick and mortar presence in an area which is growing and may contain some of our core customers. We hope that all those folks coming in to buy (one f*cking piece of chocolate and then handing me a credit card---sorry big pet peeve of mine. ) will then come back and buy gifts throughout the year and holidays. Or they will tell the company about us which would turn into corporate business. We've gotten a little of that so far, but not as much as I had anticipated (and need). Our hope is that as Mosaic continues to grow, we will just attract more customers, which in turn SHOULD turn into more sales. Just FYI, we are celebrating our 10-Year Anniversary this month, and starting on Monday, 10/19 until Saturday, 10/31, we are offering a 20% off promotion for al purchases over $30. This is valid in both stores and online. So come out and see us at Mosaic (or Arlington, thats where I'll most likely be)!! ETA: I think you'd get a lot of the same sentiments from the other retailers out in Mosaic...I think it is no fault of Edens (the developer) that things have not thrived as much as everyone had hoped, but I think a lot of factors have combined to make it a challenging place to run a retail shop or restaurant.
  5. Fern St Bistro! Blast from the past. I grew up near Burke Lake Park/Fairfax Station. My buddy used to work as a server at Fern St. (he now owns a restaurant and wine shop in PW County). Yeah, it's a shame that area can't support more restaurants like that. Four Sisters was super popular before they moved, so they had that going for them. Also, like you said, ethnic food thrives in FFX County. I think the problem at Mosaic (and I agree on the lack of a cohesive community there) is that the lunch time customers are looking for quick, inexpensive bite to eat. The Cava Grill is always packed at lunch. Sweetgreen and Taylor seem to pretty much rely on weekday lunch business. I seriously doubt the majority of the lunch crowd is looking for a sit-down meal with drinks, 3 courses, etc... It's the same here in Clarendon. Lunch business seems to be strictly the less expensive-type joints. Not enough expense account/offices for the 3 martini lunch.
  6. This is really what it comes down to. The Mosaic demographic certainly has disposable income, I just think they choose to spend it in different ways. I don't think it has anything to do with real estate prices or being 'house poor'. I grew up in Fairfax County (and own a store at Mosaic), so I have a pretty good idea of the type of shopper that we are seeing over there. Places like Matchbox, Ted's, maybe True Foods Kitchen are the right fit. I mean, look at Sweetwater Tavern (yes, technically not Mosaic, but close enough). Packed every night. Someone should do a study on this. It is quite amazing the difference in buying habits between Fairfax County and Arlington. On paper, the demographics are pretty similar. Of course, I am generalizing and not saying ALL customers in Fairfax County and ALL customers in Arlington, etc. etc... Just an observation. PS: please feel free to move this post into another thread, as it really has nothing to do with Brine (well, maybe a little..)
  7. That sounds like something I might have said. Yes, Edens did initially pursue small, local businesses for Mosaic. I think that trend is changing, as more nationals have opened and I assume will continue to open. I will readily admit, it has been a struggle out there. No fault of the developer (yes, my rent is high, but nobody put a gun to my head and made me sign a lease, it was a calculated risk). I could write ad nauseam about my Mosaic experience, both the good and the bad, but I don't really see the point in doing it in an online forum. I'd be happy to share in person if anyone is interested.
  8. Yes, Gaffneys. Thank you. We were trying to remember as my wife went into labor right after she ate a big ass hamburger from there about 12 years ago.
  9. Bummer. My wife works in that building...she's sad to see it go. BTW, does anyone out there recall the restaurant that was there before Willow?
  10. I think you hit the nail on the head right there. I don't have the problem with the $8 tzatzki, as I feel like restaurant prices reflect the whole experience. You'll drive yourself crazy if you look solely at the food cost. However, I do agree that "it's still Fairfax County"
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