Listen to this audio essay:
A Sweet Business In a Sour Economy
By Gaby Kim, Mariah Lewis, Daniel Post-Jacobs, Michael Simpson, Rachel Style
Since his childhood, Michael Lewis has had a deep-rooted love for all things sweet. Michael cites his best childhood memories as the times he "got to spend in the kitchen with [his] family, bantering over what went right and what went wrong." Lewis, now the co-owner of Philly Chocolate (13th and Walnut) as well as Philly Cupcake (12th and Chestnut), beams as he recounts the stories of holiday cooking growing up with his family in Texas.
Opened in early June, Philly Chocolate follows the success of its sister store Philly Cupcake, winner of the "2010 Best Of Philly: Cupcakes." Lewis and Columbo were able to hire one of Philadelphia's premier chocolatiers to head their kitchen at Philly Chocolate. The head chocolatier had previously worked for several years at Naked Chocolate, the company that had inhabited the 13th and Walnut store prior to Philly Chocolate.
"We look for bakers and decorators who are really detail oriented." Lewis separates his staff into three categories: bakers, decorators, and salesmen. "We like to think of our decorators as artists, and our baking more as chemistry." The sales-staff at Philly Cupcake is entirely removed from the cooking staff, so that "the people in customer-service can focus on providing service."
What makes Philly Chocolate special is the atmosphere. As a professional vintage decorator, Johnny Columbo spent twenty years doing all types of interior design. The store has a certain homey appeal that compels the customers to want to open the door and walk inside. Customer Linda Faulkner described Philly Cupcake as, "Very adorable, the first thing I noticed was the vintage feel."
Lewis credits the business success to the amiability to his staff. In his mind, applying the feedback from his customers is just as important as innovating new delectable concoctions (although Philly Chocolate does tout the largest selection of cupcakes in the city).
Philly Chocolate is a flavorful escape to chocolate lovers in the greater Philadelphia area. Not only does the pristine establishment provide delectable treats provide a few minutes of edible delight, but also a nice environment in which to sit enjoy the neighborhood's friendly atmosphere.