Chocollage shuts down after 25 years

    Chocollage has closed its doors after more than 25 years in business, including nearly 15 in the Bocage Village Shopping Center.

    Toni Forte Hayes, owner of the popular candy and gift store, is traveling and unavailable to discuss the closure, which took place early last week. In a text message to Daily Report, however, she says Chocollage will be “working exclusively with its clients for corporate and specialty events. We will continue to provide our excellent service and customer satisfaction as we have for the past 25 plus years.”

    Bocage Village property manager Mitch Richardson declines to discuss specifics of his dealings with Hayes, but suggests problems between management and the store had been building for years.

    “It just didn’t work out,” he says.

    But Richardson also concedes that since anchor tenant Dearman’s restaurant caught fire nearly a year ago, damaging several other tenants for weeks or months, parts of the shopping center have struggled.

    “That fire opened a ton of can of worms,” he says. “I’ve heard this now, so many times from tenants, that business was down 30 or 40 percent,” he says, though he adds that some tenants actually saw revenue increases last year.

    “I think any store that closes will affect not only us but anybody,” he says.

    The extent to which Chocollage sales were affected by Dearman’s is unclear. The diner remains under reconstruction with no firm opening date. Other longtime tenants, however, say there’s no question the fire and closure have hurt.

    “Of course there’s an impact,” says James Osborn, operations manager for McLavy Ltd. “I think everybody kind of complemented each other. The Dearman’s traffic or lack thereof is definitely felt by everybody. When you take out one piece of the puzzle there is definitely a spillover effect.”

    Richardson says he is already talking to potential tenants about taking over the space.

    Chocollage opened in the early 1990s in the former Village Square Shopping Center on College Drive under the ownership of Patti Fox. When the shopping center was demolished to make way for Walmart in the early 2000s, the store relocated to Bocage Village. Hayes bought the store from Fox in 2007.

    —Stephanie Riegel

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