Mmmm … Melted Economy

talesalisonnelson steps1 Mmmm … Melted EconomyEditor’s note: There are corrections for this story at the end of it.

Confectioner Alison Nelson, whose burgeoning brand of fancy Chocolate Bar stores will soon expand to such far-flung places as Dubai and Qatar, has abruptly given up on the East Village.

In early January, Ms. Nelson’s newest Chocolate Bar location at 127 East Seventh Street quietly closed shop after barely six months in business, its delectable inventory loaded into her Jeep—old-fashioned egg creams and all—and wheeled uptown to her other store at trendy Henri Bendel on Fifth Avenue. Sluggish holiday sales were a factor. “This has been the softest Christmas since we first opened,” said Ms. Nelson, 35, a nearly seven-year veteran of the city’s ever-growing gourmet chocolate scene.

Location was another. “More of our customers came to the Bendel’s location for Christmas than went to the East Village,” she said. “And I think a lot of it is because it’s freezing cold outside and nobody wants to walk however many blocks from the trains or take two buses where it’s easier to hop off the F at Sixth Avenue and—boom!—you’re right inside Henri Bendel.”

Yet, her bittersweet saga also took a rather tasty twist.

“When we last saw each other in April, I was freaking out because I couldn’t find rent in the West Village for anything that was affordable,” said Ms. Nelson, who reluctantly shuttered her original Chocolate Bar location at 48 Eighth Avenue last spring after finding larger, less expensive digs across town. “And the weirdest thing happened. …”

Cue international economic crisis!

Eight months after abandoning her beloved but overpriced West Village, Ms. Nelson now plans to return to the very same street—“never mind the same neighborhood!” she said. “Literally, diagonally across the street from where it all started and personally where I feel Chocolate Bar belongs … The West Village, for me, is home.”

Ms. Nelson said she was close to a deal to open a new Chocolate Bar at 23 Eighth Avenue.

“It’s basically the same-size space that we have now for even less money,” noted Ms. Nelson, who decided to forgo her security deposit across town in order to concentrate on the new West Village location and forthcoming stores in the Middle East.

 

MS. NELSON SAID her decision to flee the East Village was not immediate, despite some initial pains. “It took us forever to get open,” she said. “We ran into all sorts of problems with the permits and the landlord requiring so much stuff from us.”

The roughly 800-square-foot shop eventually opened in July 2008.