Vancouver chocolate-makers sweeten life in isolation and on the frontlines

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Of course, "popping by" a store, cafe, or boutique to pick up a treat isn't quite what it used to be as COVID-19 social and physical distancing measures and safety concerns have us doing our shopping online or in anxiety-packed trips to fill our carts to the brim.

But there are some chocolatiers in Metro Vancouver who are making our down time a lot sweeter, thanks to special bundles, promos, and connections to frontline workers. 

Vancouver's BETA5 has come up with a few ways to pour some sugar on your isolation. They've launched a new weekly curated "Emergency Stash Box" that's loaded with sweets that you can order up and have on hand for when you need a treat. 

The boxes are packed with limited edition and popular recent items from their always-inventive line up of chocolatey treats, and they switch up what's inside week to week. Recently you'd find your "Stash" stuffed with three of their signature Polygon chocolate bars, a set of 15 peanut butter chocolate "mini" eggs, and a set of five bourbon cashew chocolate bars. 

“The stash box is exactly what we want it to be - a stash of treats to satisfy all those sweet tooths out there, especially during this time,” says BETA5's co-owner Adam Chandler. “It also makes a great gift, and we ship across Canada.”

One other way Chandler and the BETA5 team are keeping things sweet is by offering high-quality chocolate for sale in their online shop for home bakers to use in their own kitchen creations. 

With so many people turning to baking as a hobby and fun activity, Chandler recognized that many home bakers would want easy access to provisions like Valhrona chocolate. Plus, BETA5 has plans to launch choclate making kits for adventurous at-home chocolatiers looking to sweeten their downtime while flattening the curve. Items from BETA5 are available for pick-up on Fridays from their Strathcona cafe/shop or for shipping. 

Meanwhile, one prominent chocolatier based on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast is also zeroing in on all the feels we might be self-medicating with some of that sweet stuff. 

Christopher Norman Chocolates owner John Down recently launched a Quarantini Collection.  

The secret ingredient: A pinch of laughter.

“Like many other small businesses, we have been hit hard by the economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic,” says Down. “I saw an opportunity to create a chocolate comfort kit with a little humour.”

The collection includes four truffles and four chocolate bars, and Down suggests it would make a great gift for someone who may need cheering up. The chocolatier also has several other chocolates and collections in his online shop, and currently is donating five percent of sales to the BCCDC Foundation for Public Health.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate President Brian Kerzner, VP Tammi Kerzner and their employees, with bags for donation. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Chocolate

As a way to give back, B.C.-based Rocky Mountain Chocolate is in the midst of a massive campaign to spread a little sweetness, donating their handcrafted chocolates and confections to local charities, frontline healthcare workers, food banks, nursing homes and community groups across Canada. The business, comprised of over 50 franchisees from 65 Rocky Mountain locations coast to coast and including here in B.C., got things rolling in early April, just ahead of Easter. 

Among their local donations have been $22,000 worth of premium chocolate products to first responders, doctors, nurses and support staff at UBC Hospital in Vancouver and long-term care facilities across the Lower Mainland, done in partnership with Dr. Saul Isserow at SportsCariologyBc. 

In addition, $45,000 worth of chocolate was donated to Union Gosphal Mission, and $15,000 worth of seasonal chocolates went to at-risk and vulnerable children in the Vancouver area in partnership with the Vancouver Firefighters Charities’ Snacks for Kids program.

“We are living through an incredibly difficult time right now and the COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on our franchise owners, retail staff and their families,” says Brian Kerzner, president of Rocky Mountain Chocolate. “With our individual stores currently closed, our corporate team and franchisees are coming together to provide support for our staff while also giving back to those who are on the front lines of this crisis."

Rocky Mountain Chocolate expects to donate about $1 million in chocolate by the time the campaign is done. Of course, you can support the business and your local franchisee through online orders or orders arranged directly from an individual store.

One way anyone can spread the love is through a new promo being offered by veteran Vancouver-based Purdys. They are running a two-week campaign focused on healthcare and frontline workers, and are taking nominations for deserving folks you think would love a little chocolate. Purdys will select at random a daily winner of a $100 gift certificate. While Purdys stores are closed, they are still taking orders online, and do have the option for arranging pick-up at their Vancouver factory location.