“I am also compelled to let you know that at this time the Bakery’s future is very uncertain as debts have piled up due to low sales.”

5830 Georgia Ave, NW

Thanks to a reader for passing on from the Brightwood listserv:

“Chocolate Crust – Trying to stay in Business

As the owner of Chocolate Crust Bakery I want to thank you for letting us be part of your growing community for the past 20 months. I am also compelled to let you know that at this time the Bakery’s future is very uncertain as debts have piled up due to low sales.

Unfortunately, the recognition and notoriety that the Bakery has won in the community has not yet translated into the increased sales necessary to keep the Bakery’s doors open. The Cooking Channel program airing the 22nd this month will certainly result in a bounce in sales for us. However, a strategy needs to be in place to sustain the sales beyond that.

I am therefore asking for your input and what would you like to see from us. For example, what food products would provoke you and at what prices, and would you be interested in additional services such delivery, later hours or even classes?

If you have not stopped by in a while I invite you to return. If you had an unfortunate experience with us, we have made many positive changes. In fact, we have the best staff we have ever had. We also do wholesale and catering, so if you know a coffee shop or restaurant needing some new variety please let me know.

While I am grateful for the wonderful positive comments I hear every day about us and our delicious chocolate food and pastries, I hope you will share your comments with your friends and neighbors and encourage them to stop by soon. Feel free to share this with other neighborhood groups in the area that I may not know of.

Just so you know I am not just standing by, this is my current focus:
– Do a targeted mailing to area neighborhoods
– Placing door hanger flyers in targeted neighborhoods
– Start reliable delivery service in a 2 mile radius using Caviar delivery service (www.trycaviar.com)
– Re-open later in the evenings until 8pm or 9pm
– Concerted effort to generate catering & wholesale business
– Capitalize on the Cooking Channel TV show featuring us on the on the 22nd this month
– Working with neighborhood businesses to do a “Taste of Georgia Ave” food tour on the 25th this month to showcase all the great food we have here.
I love this neighborhood, and I would love to continue to be a part of it.

Yours in service,

Chef Robert Cabeca

Robert Cabeca
Executive Chef/Owner


88 Comment

  • This makes me sad; this place is great. Though I feel a little at fault – I live nearby and don’t go nearly enough. I’ll step it up.

  • This makes me so sad. I will do my best to come by more often!

  • I actually went there for the first time a few weeks ago and loved it. Their menu items are unique and all of the pastry and bread options looked amazing. I am sad to see this and will certainly send along some suggestions to the chef.

  • It may be too expensive or too late to relocate, but I don’t think that neighborhood can support this kind of specialty business – at least not yet. In the past 4 or 5 years, the building at the corner of Missouri and Georgia has had numerous restaurants open in it. All have failed. I don’t know of any sitdown places in Brightwood; or specialty carryout places. It’s good to get in on the ground floor and commendable to want to build a neighborhood, but sometimes the neighborhood is just not ready.
    He would probably be printing money if he was further down Georgia Ave, in Petworth or Park View.

    • It just seems like a difficult place to do business. Other than the apartments on that corner, there’s not much foot traffic. All the vehicular traffic is pretty much commuters, and that intersection makes it difficult to park.

  • I really like this place too but every time I’ve visited they have been sold out of their signature items. Will try to visit more and spread the word!

  • I hate hearing about someone’s small business being on the rocks, and I love that you’re reaching out to align your service with the neighborhood’s needs. But please please please do not do the door hanging marketing strategy. Between wind and people just tossing them aside, it’s pre-littering. I have a negative association with businesses that litter my neighborhood.

  • I live in Brightwood and have been to Chocolate Crust twice; the first time the service was so horrible we walked out after waiting to be served for five minutes. The second time we were served, but I just really did not care for the food. It’s a good concept, however, I think it’s too niche. I agree that it’s probably just too niche to be supported in Brightwood, which remains heavily ungentrified with much opposition to further gentrification. I just can’t see the majority of my neighbors going for a chocolate infused salad or sandwich for lunch. I’m sad to see a business not do great in the neighborhood, but I don’t think this business was right for us.

  • A few ideas:
    -More healthy bakery items. I’m a chocolate addict, but so many people are into healthy food that you need to provide options for them.
    -Try to be a supplier to (1.) catering companies, (2.) food service contractors that run the cafeterias at various Federal agencies or large corporate offices, (3.) restaurants and cafes throughout the region. This might mean cold calling and/or dropping off free samples to prove the quality of your product. These types of businesses love to offer “local” products that they can advertise.
    -Fresh baked bread. People seem to always be demanding it but can never find it. The margins are slim, but maybe you can make it work.
    -Also offer delivery through Postemates.com. That’s the most popular delivery app; I’ve never heard of Caviar.
    -Try to link up with Uber’s new one hour personal delivery service and offer baked goods through them.
    -Sell at the local farmer’s markets. That will drive new customers to your physical location.

    • These are some great ideas. Besides Petworth, and Park View, Takoma is another nearby market that would love pastries from a local business.

    • Agree on local farmer’s markets — some very successful bakeries are at the farmer’s markets and seem to sell out very quickly. Silver Spring is another one that gets a lot of traffic. Or think about a spot at the holiday market in Gallery Place if finances will hold out that long. Honestly, having made a special trip to try the offerings at CC following the Post reviews, I have recommended it to a number of people, but they may need a taste to make the trek to Brightwood.

    • I love all these ideas!

    • To correct the above: “-Fresh baked bread. People seem to always be demanding it but can never find it. The margins are slim, but maybe you can make it work.”

      Bread is perhaps the cheapest, most marked-up thing in a bakery. The ingredients are INCREDIBLY cheap, compared to pastry or cake ingredients. I can make a loaf of bread at home for approximately 50 cents worth of ingredients. With the market rate for a good loaf of bread upwards of $5, I wouldn’t consider that margin to be slim at all.

      • Incorrect.

        In addition to the cost of ingredients you have to consider:

        1. Labor
        2. Rent
        3. Utilities
        4. Pest Control
        5. Equipment and Maintenance
        6. Debt Service

        And on and on. Bakeries have TERRIBLE margins, but that doesn’t stop the lay person from wanting one in their quaint little neighborhood (which has no foot traffic and little if any parking).

        • yeah. people who do stuff as a hobby don’t have a lot of sense of what it takes to do something as a business.

  • I’ll be sure to visit this weekend and at least once a month from there out! Always wonder how y’all are doing. Everything you make is great. You’re just a bit out of the way for me (1.5 mi). But as others have said maybe a relocation could help.

    • gotryit

      I’m in the same boat – I’d love to try it out, but it’s just a bit far out of my way. I’ll be there for some bagels soon.

  • Reach out to Harrar coffee on GA ave. great coffee but their pastries taste like cardboard

  • We live in Petworth and drive by this place every day to and from work. When it first opened, we stopped by on our way home, but the hours weren’t convenient for the work week. I also remember that the original signs were about the chocolate pizza, which seemed a bit too niche.

    I promise we will stop by this weekend and give it a chance. It sound like people who have eaten there love it.

  • I know this is not what you want to hear in the midst of having debts to pay off, but I live right around the corner and have never come in because the outside appearance of the shop just does not make it look appealing at all. The branding on your Twitter page and Facebook page is solid and if that look/feel translated to your store I think you would have a lot more folks dropping in. -Bakery-Deli-Candy Store- sounds amazing! However instead what you see when you drive by is your vinyl sign over -Breakfast-Lunch-Catering-Salads-, not as appealing. Not trying to be negative at all but i think a new look on the outside might get more people inside.

    That said, I will make an effort to come support this weekend!

    • This is the kind of stuff they need to hear, even if they don’t want to hear it!

    • I visit every weekend to enjoy hot cholate and pastries, i had the same impression about the outside, it took me a winter storm to get in and I love it since. They can make a promotion, get a friend and pay 1 and 2 eat. So people get to. Know the place.

    • They vinyl is down. They’ve had a new sign for a while now.

  • It’s on my commute home and I’ll make an effort to stop by. Yes! Healthy options to go would be great!!

  • i went in for the first time because i saw fresh bagel sign. so the front does need some work to look attractive. as much as it can be given that the street scape is not very good in that area.

    the food has always been awesome, authentic, and unique. i have been there many times and i do not mind waiting for great food because dc simply does not have much of it.

    my girlfriend and i really love this place.

  • I enjoy the food, but every time I’ve been there, I’ve felt that the service has leisurely and indifferent. This includes my most recent visit two weeks ago, so it doesn’t inspire much confidence that your staff is the best yet.

  • I visited a few months ago and had a great experience. The service was good as were the pastries I bought. However, I think the issue is location. It’s just too busy of an intersection for neighborhood foot traffic, with a lot of fast moving cars. In fact, I don’t see a lot of foot traffic in that neighborhood. Moreover, as some of the other comments have suggested, the neighborhood doesn’t yet have the right demographic to support this business. I only stopped in because I was driving down Georgia Ave and saw the sign after hearing about the place.

    • I agree. I have been driving to my sister’s house in Brightwood for years, right past this place as it has rotated businesses, and I have stopped once. It’s so hard to just stop in there if you’re driving because there is so little parking nearby and if you park on the north side of the street, the width and wait time to cross Georgia Ave make it seem so far away, it just doesn’t feel like a very walkable spot. I agree that the foot traffic there doesn’t seem to be enough to sustain this, as evidenced by the numerous failed attempts at this location.
      But, there are good reviews on here, so maybe I’ll put up with that to try it out. Is there seating? My parents are visiting and are always looking for a good breakfast spot?

  • My roommate worked for this deadbeat. Maybe if he paid his employees he could keep a successful business running? Just sayin’.

  • I may be in the minority, but I can’t eat here. I’m celiac and can’t eat gluten – at all.

    I’d come in if I knew there was something I could eat.

    • They have salad and eggs and some meat dishes. Though in a bakery there may be too great a risk of cross-contamination.

    • I live close and would also come if they had gluten free items. I can get eggs and salad and meat anywhere – make some gluten free baked goods and I’ll come running 🙂

  • I live around the corner and would pop in for takeout if it was open later during the week.

  • I’d love to be able to pick up a couple dozen cupcakes or a bakery platter for my kids’ school, but that location needs a parking lot. It is impossible to stop and buy anything because of the thundering traffic coming through. Also, not pleased to to hear they are welching on employee payroll?

  • I feel like if you all had been in Petworth business would be fantastic. That intersection is weird so parking and just getting to the space is not easy. Also, the last time I was there I waited for so long for someone to help me I finally left and went to Flip It.

  • Sounds like a Kickstarter campaign is needed.

  • I mean this in the nicest way, but it’s a horrible location. Come down to Petworth near the metro and you’ll see a lot more foot traffic. The neighborhood has been begging for a bakery and Chocolate Crust be amazing. It’s soooo good. Just not good enough for me to drive or bus up Georgia Av to one of the worst intersections in DC…

    • justinbc

      Hard to imagine that a business with “debt piling up” would be able to afford the cost to build out a new location in what I would imagine is a much more costly area. I’m sure they probably wanted to open in a better area to begin with, but likely couldn’t get the financing for it. Many businesses have to settle for opening where they can afford to, rather than where they want to.

  • notlawd

    This does not surprise me in the least. I hate to see anyone go out of business, expecially in my neighborhood, but this place has horrible service and the food is mediocre at best. I went to this place three times (I never like to judge a place on just one experience) and each visit was worse than the last. I finally gave up after I was unable to pick up an order I placed a week in advance becase the chef did not show up on time!! And this is after I waited for 30 minutes in the morning before work. In an effort to be constructive however, the one thing I loved about the old Washington Deli Pizza were the deli sandwiches available for lunch. I know this area does not have a big lunch crowd, but there are teleworkers and not many good places to grab something for lunch other than fast food. I also agree with the comments about the outside. It looks like the owner is not committed to the space with just the vinyl sign out front. I am sure the walmart has brought in more foot traffic, so it can’t only be the location…

  • I’ve been several times bc I like supporting biz in the area. Cronuts were great but hard to get and sadly the breakfast sandwiches I had weren’t very good–bland and the Chocolate bread dry. Try a little salt or seasoning and ditch the awful Styrofoam for pp who are dining in. Felt so wasteful. Though I would disregard the quality of the food if you had great coffee! There is none to be had in that neck of the woods so maybe if you took advantage of the void and publicized it…? I would be in there far more often

  • We live in the area, but a little south west of the shop. We have heard good things about the bakery but haven’t stopped in because when we drive by and think to stop, parking is scarce. I won’t park on the behind street because it’s still a bit sketchy and I am small female. I agree with the earlier posts that the location is still not quite there, and also the sign out front doesn’t make it seem like a focused establishment and isn’t that appealing to warrant the parking hassles.

  • Stopped in today for lunch after seeing the plea on the listserv. Had a nice salad and pastry.

    -Agree with others about healthy options.
    -Definitely agree about location. It’s too far to be realistically walkable from Takoma, Petworth, or the future Walter Reed. Plus you take your life in your hands crossing either Georgia or Missouri. There are no great parking options, either (though they advertise curbside pickup, FWIW).
    -Agree that the service was slow, but it wasn’t bad IMHO. They were making my salad and coffee fresh and there isn’t a large staff.

  • I liked the food the one time I went, but we waited 30 minutes for a pizza because there was only one person working. We ended up taking the pizza across the street to the park because of lack of seating inside. We also had to walk next door to the gas station for drinks because they didn’t serve soda. Ultimately, that experience was enough for me to steer clear.

  • Location, Location, Location. I always want to stop by but I’m not in the neighborhood. i did go once but I was too late. Seems I may be too late one other time. Sad.

  • i will try to stop by!

    • The city really needs to install a cross walk across Georgia Avenue on the southern side of that terrible intersection. It would make accessing the bakery a lot easier for those who may be walking or biking from neighborhoods to the east of the location.

      • The whole intersection needs to be redesigned. The geometry is the problem, not the lack of a painted crosswalk. Paint a crosswalk there without fixing the geometry and all it will accomplish is getting more people to walk where the drivers *still can’t see them* and get them killed.

  • justinbc

    If I were you I would can the idea of staying open an hour later. If your store is empty the rest of the evening, being open an hour later is only going to drive up your operating costs. The incremental number of people who would have come that late but wouldn’t be able to otherwise is going to be small, and unlikely offset by what you have to pay your employees and utility costs.

  • I live in Mount Pleasant and would love for you to relocate here – but i would totally come up to your current location if you offered classes on pulling espresso, how to foam milk, and/or baking classes for experienced bakers which focused on presentation techniques or pastry.

    • topscallop

      I really like this idea!

      I’ve never been to this bakery as I live in Shaw and don’t have a car, but I wonder if they could afford a different location if they downsized? In Bloomindale/NoMa/Shaw perhaps…?

  • Have you looked at the Georgia Ave. Great Streets grants? The theme for the thread seems to be location. I understand that it is difficult when you already have debts piling up but you can receive up to $85,000 and that would go along way in helping to secure a better location. And I know people would donate to Kickstarter if they thought a bakery would come to Petworth.

    I know that idea probably seems overwhelming at this point but I don’t think it is impossible.

    Also, as a fellow small business owner – July and August can be brutal in DC. It is often difficult for me to not go into a bit of debt at that time just because the town is so dead. I don’t know how long you have been struggling but if it is just in the last few months I would try to hold out and hope that Oct.-Dec. would be better.

    Lastly, if moving is too much of a difficulty you can use the grant to do work on the facade as people have noted it can use some improvement.

  • I don’t know how to put it nicely, but the location is not exactly what I would consider desirable for this type of eating establishment. I suspect there is minimal overlap between who typically passes by this location during the course of a normal day and who would want to eat there. Note that I’m not picking on Brightwood generally, just this particular location at Georgia & Missouri specifically. All of the other businesses in the area cater to a different crowd, and being the first one that isn’t a liquor store or a mattress discounter is surely difficult. What most deters me from visiting is that you are located at just about the worst intersection I can think of to attempt to cross on foot in any direction (I live north and east of you – I’d have to cross both Georgia and Missouri to get there.

  • Was really wanting a good cup of coffee on Sunday while waiting for my car to be washed at the car wash next door. Walked into an empty cafe and woman behind the counter glared at me when I walked in and didn’t respond to my “hi!” She then turned around and started washing knives and never responded when I said I was ready to order. So, I walked out after standing there for another couple minutes. Never been there before, NEVER going back. The worst part is the chef was sitting at table with two people discussing progress in the neighborhood. He didn’t do anything or even make eye contact when I walked out unserved. All I wanted was a morning cup of coffee, is that too much to ask????

  • This comment isn’t directed only at Chocolate Crust, but I don’t understand the approach a lot of places take of opening a high concept place as the first offering in a gentrifying neighborhood. It seems like it might make better sense to offer a simpler concept that bridget the divide between older residents and new arrivals: rather than chocolate pizza, why not a simple coffee shop/bakery? Sometimes it seems like Petworth, Brightwood and some other neighborhoods are skipping just regular place to get something to eat and trying to go from a block with a Chinese place behind bullet proof glass to a block filled with specialty boutiques.

    • What about Domku on Upshur Street? For many years, people wrung their hands over the idea that it was too ‘high concept’. Now other business owners have caught up with the owner’s vision, especially Paul Ruppert. And this is all happening on a block that STILL has a Chinese-food-behind-bulletproof-glass joint.

      All I’m saying is that sometimes you can’t get where you need to go with baby steps. Sometimes you have to make a big jump.

      • Yeah, Domku’s location didn’t have a whole lot going for it back when they first opened, but they didn’t have the impossibility of parking right in front of it, or the harrowing crossing of Georgia and Missouri working against it either. I think the southwest corner of Georgia and Missouri is a one-of-a-kind business-killer for any business that aspires to draw its clientele from anywhere other than existing pedestrian traffic on that block, which is mostly people going to the liquor store, car wash, and the discount mattress place.

      • I’m the person who posted above and I am in the monrity here in that I HATE Domku, and I’m a person who lived in Eastern Europe and am very familiar with the cuisine (maybe that’s why I hate Domku). Eastern European food should be homey and friendly and most of all, never pretentious; Domku misses on all three points.

  • I live moments away but have never been. The name really doesn’t make me think of anything I’d like to eat. Chocolate Crust? What is that?

    PLEASE no mailings, door flyers, etc… These will end up in the trash or litter the streets.

    I’d suggest rebranding with cafe or bistro or whatever makes one think of food and not a burned brownie.

    Delivery might be a fantastic idea – we almost have zero delivery options in 16th St heights. After a long day of work, delivery of QUALITY food is something I’d love at least twice a week.

    Best of luck!

  • Consider a kick starter campaign. The new bookstore on Upshur did it and got $17,000. I would be willing to donate toward quality business development for our hood.

    Also… I don’t know if you’re in the pie business, but Thanksgiving is coming and I would buy pies. $30 is the cost at dangerously delicious, but if I could get then closer, I would.

  • Chef Cabeca,

    We have only been in to your place once, but were SO impressed with the pastries. We live in the neighborhood and want businesses like yours to thrive on Georgia Ave. After reading this, we’ll be in on Sunday to pick up some things for a party we’re having! I’ve got a couple suggestions that might help.

    1) Become the “Best Buns” of Georgia Ave! If you could lay down a base sales of pastries/breads that were distributed daily or even just on Sat and Sun mornings to local restaurants, you could focus more on providing variety in the store. Restaurants and cafes in Takoma, on Georgia Ave, and in Petworth would be proud to offer your pastries. Make a name for yourself as the neighborhood baker.

    2) You might want to narrow the menu. It’s a little overwhelming to come in to so many options! Maybe just focus on the best sellers and offer weekly specials to add variety.

    3) Take to the streets. As the year-round farmers markets enter winter season, they are looking prepared food vendors to take the place of fruit and vegetable farmers. This can build your name and your base in the local community.

    Hope these ideas are useful! I’ll start following you on twitter today.

    Good luck,
    MJS – Brightwood Resident

    • Great ideas! May i add that it is of the utmost importance to hire friendly staff? Actually serving people goes a long way. I’m the one who posted above that no one would help me. You (chef) watch it all and watched a customer walk out the door.

  • Perhaps it would be worth considering renting the space to a pop up pizza delivery business in the evening after Chocolate Crust closes. All of the infrastructure is there and it would bring in some additional revenue.

  • I went this weekend to check it out as I promised. The staff aren’t super friendly, if you’re really on the brink, I’d suggest being there all day, every day to meet people with a smile.

  • The chocolate chipotle donut and chocolate raspberry pop tarts are pretty much the best desserts I’ve had around in a long time. Bagels are delicious, too.

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