For young artists living in NYC, going out to eat often just isn’t affordable. Jon Payson and Naomi Josepeher found that going out just for dessert gave them the fun and excitement they wanted without emptying their wallets.
But that moment of disappointment, as Josepher describes, when you tell the hostess you are coming “just for dessert” left them with a feeling of guilt.
“Years passed, we moved to Brooklyn and we noticed in Park Slope a lack of dessert place,” Josepher said. “We were both getting a bit older and started to think about other ways to make a living. We started coming up with the idea of a chocolate shop, then a dessert café, and he picked up a book on chocolate one day and that was it.”
The two found a spot in Park Slope and signed a lease in 2004 with just enough money in their bank accounts to cover the first and last month’s rent. In January of 2005, two weeks before Valentine’s Day, The Chocolate Room opened its doors.
“We signed the lease before we had anything, it was a huge leap of faith,” she said. “We take a lot of risks and just trust that it works out. We learned a lot in terms of business, you have a vision, believe in it and just go.”
That was the first leap, and opening up a second, larger shop on Court Street in Cobble Hill in 2008 was the next. Now, with 10 years of business under their belts, the couple is feeling the pressure yet again.
“We’re on northern 5th Avenue, which is a Barclays Center hub, and I think a lot of landlords are feeling they can raise the rent,” Josepher said, “ and they’re raising it five times what we’ve been paying. We know what our top rent can be, and that wasn’t even a negotiable number.”
The two have decided to move on and find something else, and have found a potential space in northern Park Slope. Though the lease is still being negotiated, they are hoping everything works out so they can stay in the community that has treated them so well since the start.
“We were greeted with open arms and warmth from the Park Slope community, and they are now 10 years later still our family, our friends,” she said.
Josepher and Payson pride themselves on not only working with the best chocolate possible, but having a place that is an experience in itself.
“The biz is a success, I think, because we’ve been open to hearing what customers want and what employees think are good ideas,” she said. “The Chocolate Room is a group effort of people coming together for the love of chocolate, wine and ice cream.
“I remember sitting in our apartment in Prospect Place saying we wanted to create a refuge; an environment that wasn’t just any old place, when you walked in something changed you, physically”
The Chocolate Room has also been involved with many philanthropic efforts through the years, recently raising over $600 for non-profits in a chocolate taste-testing contest between Brooklyn chocolate companies.
Even with a decade of chocolate behind them, their love for the sweet treat has not waned, and likely won’t any time soon.
“We’ve discovered in our journey that people who come into chocolate are very creative,” she said. “We’ve had amazing opportunities to see how chocolate is made. We’re really inspired just by the plant itself and all the creativity that exists within that.”