Photo: By and of Chris Curtin
For fifteen years, Éclat Chocolate has graced the people of West Chester with their award-winning chocolate — specifically truffles, caramels, mondiants and bars. The brand’s owner and master chocolatier, Christopher Curtin, acquired skills from the most pristine chocolate houses in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Japan. As a national chocolate brand, Éclat participates in wholesale marketing, selling to hotels such as the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton; the brand also vends to cruise lines.
Like all businesses during the pandemic, Éclat Chocolate was expected to follow guidelines implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Chester County. I had the pleasure of remotely interviewing Curtin on the realities COVID-19 had on Éclat and how the store persevered.
Q: What is your mission statement? Did it have to be altered or adapted once the pandemic began to take its toll?
A: Our mission statement is always changing; Éclat strives to craft world-class chocolate in the small atmosphere of West Chester. We’ve won the Vogue magazine award for ‘greatest caramel’ as well as ‘best chocolate’ in America in Bon Appetit magazine. I like to say, “Tradition meets innovation.”
Q: What was the process of adapting your business to the new guidelines from the West Chester Borough and the CDC? Did you receive guidance? Did it run smoothly, or could it have been better?
A: We have family-friends that are doctors and surgeons, of whom gave us tips during this time. Éclat always maintains a professional kitchen, as we always wore gloves and masks and routinely sanitized the kitchen. There is a foot bath for employees to use as they enter; everyone must wear a mask at all times or a face shield if they work closer to one another. We have two industrial-sized HEPA filters in which the air is completely exchanged, frequently.
Q: If you are a dine-in service, how did that change? What is the new protocol?
A: We were the first ones to shut down in Chester County. I was working in Japan when COVID hit, so I got a precursor to what was going on back home. We started contactless pick-up where customers could order chocolate online and pick it up at the window. After the dust settled, we allowed a limited number of guests in at once; this is usually no more than three people.
Q: Did your staff downsize because of COVID-19? Were you required to have less people working at a time?
A: We have two facilities, so the team split up. Our other facility is behind West Chester Henderson High School; this is where Éclat makes the chocolate from the bean, as well as the location of our offices and fulfillment.
Q: Talk about your menu. Were you able to maintain all of your menu items? What had to be eliminated or changed? Did the quarantine inspire you to add new items?
A: Because of our flexible background and my experience working in European kitchens, we were gratefully able to produce the same products with no change in quality. Thankfully, much of our bean shipment came in before the pandemic. COVID didn’t affect us as far as the supply chain. Our wholesale dropped off considerably since cruise lines and hotels shut down to keep their staff and customers safe.
Q: As of today, what does the atmosphere of Éclat look like in terms of safety? What can consumers expect in the weeks and months to come?
A: We have the same protocol in our operating rooms, as well as continuing to manufacture dairy. Employees are enforced to not wear work uniforms outside of the building. Our installed HEPA filtration system would take out any viruses in art if there was any. A lot of people feel extremely safe coming into Éclat.
Q: Do you have a current message to customers that you’d like to share on this platform?
A: Try to continue to support local businesses when you can. You can pick up or come into the store — however you feel safest. At Éclat, we want customers to have a safe and enjoyable experience. Please support all businesses in the West Chester town!
After our talk, the master chocolatier wanted to relay a message to all WCU students, “We love students coming in. We make amazing hot chocolate and will make it especially for them when they visit.” As the holiday season sneakily approaches, head down to Éclat Chocolate for some sweet seasonal shopping.
Éclat Chocolate is open Monday — Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on Sundays. For more information, and goodies, visit eclatchocolate.com.
Madison Starinieri is a fourth-year English writings BSEd and special education major. MS882527@wcupa.edu