On What The Chocolate Garage Means to Areté

Leslie and I have been frequenting The Chocolate Garage for the better part of its five years in business. Our first trip to The Garage was the result of a search for bars from different craft chocolate makers. We were just starting out on our chocolatemaking journey, and one of the first things we knew we needed to do was to educate our palates – to learn to taste (you can’t make good chocolate if you don’t know what good chocolate tastes like). Up until that point, chocolate for us was pretty much what you get at the grocery store and from the Easter Bunny, with the odd trip to Ghiradelli or to a Godiva store being our only foray into what we saw as ‘finechocolate’.

We plugged the address into Google Maps, set off for Palo Alto, and about an hour later arrived at…where the heck are we? Is this the right address? Where do we park? Are you sure this is the right place? After carefully reading the signs on the poles in the parking lot next door to make sure we were within the permissible time range for parking there without being towed, we dismounted from or trusty steed (my Prius) and followed the yellow brick road (O.K., the grey cement sidewalk) around the building, under the vines, through the (open!) door and into…a magical, enchanted little world unto itself.

We were completely taken by the great selection of really, really good craft chocolate. On your first visit that’s the first thing that hits you. But if you go back a second time, and then a third you start to see that The Chocolate Garage is also a place to learn – deeply – about not only craft chocolate, but the entire chocolateecosystem from the soil and the farmer to the makers to the finished bar in your hand – as well as the bars that aren’t in your hand, and why that’s the case (and should be). If you go back a few more times you may start to sense something even more important, more profound about what The Chocolate Garage is: it’s the quintessence of what Roy Oldenburg calls a “Great Good Place” in his book of the same name. It’s a welcoming, inviting place where you can check the cares of the world at the door, let your hair and your guard down, get to know the regulars (perhaps even become one!) and the irregulars, talk chocolate (and pretty much anything else that comes to mind), and become part of something far bigger than any one of us alone.

Sunita asked us recently why, being chocolate makers, we signed up for TheChocolate Garage membership. The answer for us is pretty simple – The ChocolateGarage represents the heart and soul of a very special community that includes everyone from the farmers to all of us who enjoy (or will enjoy!) Happy Chocolate. Every member of this geographically vast and extended community has to benefit from their participation in order to ensure the future of fine flavor cacao and high quality craft chocolate. The Chocolate Garage plays a central role in bringing all of us together to that end. We want to see The Chocolate Garage remains a viable concern and can carry on that great work – which alone, for us, would justify the cost of our membership. Even if we were to put that aside we’d still gladly pay the cost of membership just to know that The Chocolate Garage will continue to be there for us when we need that Happy Chocolate fix and for the joy of bumping into some friendly and familiar faces…