Willy Wonka would be surprised. Rather than the river of chocolate depicted in the movie, the folks at Uncle Sam’s Candy make their chocolate confections from 50-pound slabs delivered daily.
And pandemic or not, people still want their goodies, especially on Valentine’s Day, which is this Monday.
While business at their Schenectady and Latham stores has been brisk in the days leading to Monday, they also are sending out lots of online orders.
In fact, the coronavirus pandemic and its various permutations have resulted in a near-tripling of Uncle Sam’s online business since late 2020 when the virus first emerged in a big way, keeping people at home.
This February, with the pandemic apparently peaking for now, people are coming back to chocolate shops like Uncle Sam’s and Krause’s in Colonie to browse the shelves of cherry cordials, peanut butter bars, malted milk balls, milk chocolate bars, truffles, pralines and other treats.
“We’ve definitely seen more of an uptick of people coming in,” said Uncle Sam’s kitchen manager Melissa Thwaits. “People are coming back into the store.”
“It’s pretty busy,” Caleb Henderson at Krause’s said Friday morning just after the store was open and throngs of men and women came in looking for Valentine’s Day chocolates.
Candy shops, like just about everyone else, have worked hard to keep their stores stocked during the pandemic and its attendant supply chain issues.
Thwaits said she has been getting frequent emails from suppliers telling her of price increases in the “flats,” or 8 pound chunks of raw Belgian chocolate that they turn into delectables at the shop.
Chocolate comes from the cacao tree, which originated in Central and South America but which is now grown predominantly in Africa.
Droughts and rising temperatures have threatened some crops, which tend to thrive in a band about 700 miles north or south of the equator.
Nor are ecological and climate changes the only challenges.
One local purveyor noted that much of the Capital Region’s chocolate comes through ports in the mid-Atlantic such as Newark or Philadelphia and goes to large warehouse complexes in Pennsylvania, operated by international suppliers like Blommer and Callebaut. Pennsylvania is also the historical home of Hershey’s.
During the past few years, though, Amazon has opened a series of facilities nearby and has hired away many of the chocolate warehouse people, further complicating deliveries.
Still, stores and sellers of chocolate contacted by the Times Union say they have managed to keep goodies coming in and are well-stocked for the Valentine’s Day rush.
“Everyone has their challenges but we’ve been really lucky,” said Laurie Taunton a vice president at Bobrow chocolate distributors in Clifton Park.
She added that sales actually increased overall during the pandemic, a fact she ascribes to chocolate’s role as sort of sweetened comfort food or affordable indulgence for people.
Moreover, those retailers who were able to quickly adapt to an online and home delivery model have thrived for the past few years.
Adapting to the market can also mean paying attention to the calendar.
Thwaits said Uncle Sam’s plans to remain open until 8 p.m. on Monday and they expect a lot of business on Tuesday. That’s because some chocolate buyers, mostly men, may have forgotten that Monday is Valentine’s Day amid the excitement of Super Bowl Sunday, which is the day before.
“There are always a few stragglers who forgot about Valentine’s Day,” she said.
[email protected] 518 454 5758 @RickKarlinTU
Through supply chain challenges and price hikes, the chocolate keeps flowing appeared first on maserietv.com.