Neighborhood Plea Not Enough – Chocolate Crust Closes in Brightwood

5830 Georgia Ave, NW

Earlier this month things were not looking good for Chocolate Crust. Thanks to a reader for passing on the unfortunate update from the Brightwood listserv:

“It is with great sadness that I must close Chocolate Crust Bakery today, Friday October 31, 2014. It has been a long struggle. However…

I would never have been able to get this far without your incredible support! I have been incredibly humbled by the passion the local community has shown in supporting small business in this changing neighborhood. You have rallied for us and come out for us and provided innumerable suggestions and positive comments which all together kept us going this far! Thank you!

Even with an episode on the Cooking Channel, 5 times written up in the Washington post, “Best of…” in several categories by numerous publications, great ratings on Yelp, radio interviews, TV spots from here to NYC, direct support from our Ward 4 Council Member Muriel Bowser and her team and honored by being in her campaign commercial, and especially an incredible amount of support in so many ways form Emory Beacon of Light here in Brightwood, we were not able to make a solid go of it.

This neighborhood is in an interesting time of regeneration and I have been thrilled and grateful to have been a part of it getting to know so many of you and becoming your friends. I hope you will keep supporting the many neighboring businesses who are also struggling.

As for what I will be doing next… I will be finishing my chocolate cookbook quite quickly and also be teaching culinary at area institutions and do some business consulting as well. That should keep me busy until my next new idea takes form.

In love and service, THANK YOU for everything.

Chef Robert Cabeca”

26 Comment

  • Is he going to do business consulting or receive some business consulting? It sounds like he doesn’t need a new idea, but a viable business plan.

  • Sad to see it go, was trying to make it but couldn’t in time. Ga Ave business development is moving way too slow. I blame the defunkt mayor & city council. There should be more support for business on Ga Ave like there is on 14th street, it means more tax revenue for the city…. Duh.

    • For example?

      • They need to allow more business grants, perform lighting and street updates, foster easier development and business license processes (so that other businesses can move in to bolster sparse areas), the can also put more cops on foot patrol to make it safer for pedestrians, sit down diners, and shoppers in evening hours, they can increase parking availability on streets by fixing broken meters (there is a broken meter in front of Harrar Coffee that has been marked as “no parking” for over 11 months now), They can also go after owners of blighted and unkempt properties on Georgia ave too to encourage a better look for the corridors… But I don’t work there, so it’s up to them to come up with the ideas.

      • Agree with “live there”. The city really needs to add a crosswalk so you can cross the street on the south side of Missouri. It’s hard to access the place from East of Georgia. Those businesses would have more foot traffic ifa it were easier to actually get there on your feet.

    • It’s great that you live there, but there’s clearly not enough density/expendable income/demand to support such business at this point in time. Now that the City Council seems to have killed the Georgia streetcar line, I’m afraid real change won’t come any time soon.

      • When did they kill the street car?!? That’s awful news to hear; really bad for prospects on Georgia Ave 🙁

        • Roughly a week or so ago. The Council voted to withhold funding for future streetcar lines for the time being. (They are going to finish the east-west H st line with existing funding.) This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Georgia line is completely off the table in the future, but it’s going to be an uphill battle to get it funded.

    • I live – and love – there as well, and here’s my two cents: a business like this could never ever fly in Brightwood, because the neighborhood is generally terrible for any sort of niche product, lacking as we do a dense population of well-financed residents who are interested in walking up and down Georgia Avenue, which is dominated by crap, drug dealers, crap, loser street loiterers, and more crap, and lots of residents who will purchase and consume crap. To anyone who wants to run a successful new business in this area: stock your establishment with crap, and sell it at inflated prices. Also, consider lottery, Keno, and the nation’s favorite drugs of abuse, alcohol and refined sugar.

  • That is the classiest letter I’ve read in a while. Sorry it didn’t work out 🙁

  • justinbc

    Wow, that was like 3 weeks ago. I wonder how much revenue he thought that plea would generate if he was really that close to closing the doors?

  • That is a nice letter.
    I stopped in after his initial plea and I saw some of the issues first hand. It took 20 minutes for me to buy a pastry with only about 3 people in line in front of me. There are myriad issues with this location, but I really found the efficiency and organization lacking. I mean, there must be systems for order efficiency you can buy off the shelf, right? Best of luck in the next endeavor and tons and tons of luck to whomever takes that space next.

    • +1. This was my experience every time I went there. Great concept, poor execution.

    • Completely agree. I had one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten at Chocolate Crust. The bun was just perfect, but it shouldn’t take 30 minutes to cook a burger when I’m the only one there.

      • Totally agree. Walked in and was only customer, walked out 10 min later after staff didn’t seem interested in taking my order. Owner was sitting at table and saw the whole thing. Sadly it didn’t phase him. I expected he would have 1) said something to staff standing washing a knife for 10 min and 2) call to me to stay after he saw I wasn’t going to get served.

        • Agree, the wait times were insane and the staff was really terrible and inefficient. Once, the girl wouldn’t sell me a quiche in the glass case because there wasn’t “a button” on her register for it… The owner seamed really nice but totally clueless about the business side of the operation. We went there pretty regularly and I always left wondering how it was still in business.

  • jim_ed

    This sucks. I hate to see him go, but I definitely appreciate the classy letter on exiting, which is a nice change of pace from businesses that try to blame the city (hi, Back Alley Waffles!), or their customers palates (hello, forgettable Top Chef contestant in Glover Park!). Until the city decides to totally blow up and reconfigure that intersection, that location will continue to be a tough sell for retail. I’m afraid Simple Bar and Grill might be headed to a similar fate. I hope if he decides to try retail again he takes a strong look at Kennedy Street, which has crazy cheap rents and is desperate for new retail blood.

  • You want retail. You need heads in beds. Retail is growing in Park View and Petworth, Upshur Street etc but it wil have to works its way to brightwood. New development, new density is helping. Retail follows population growth, at least 2-5 years behind. Most retail leases are for five years minimum too so crappy liquor stores etc hang on for a bit. Brightwood just isnt’ ready yet. We still have 6 major development sites in the works in Park View and Petworth and the growth will spread north…Hang in there Brightwood

  • Darn. Always thought the menu looked delicious and you have to root for someone trying to make it. So why didn’t I ever go? Mostly because of access. That intersection is a nightmare, partially because of layout, and the rest because of the idiots breaking the law, double parking, not following lanes, etc. Plus there’s no parking, as far as I could tell. It’s a little far to walk, for me, at least as a stand-alone destination, and there’s nothing else that enticed me for a weekend lunch / shopping trip. And there’s no bike racks or places to lock up my bike (plus, again, navigating that intersection). All in all, tough to make an impulse stop-in.

    Still, I regret never making it there …

    • I’m pretty sure the huge parking lot below the Walmart across the street is free. The last time I ate at Chocolate Crust my lady and I parked there and walked across the street. We also bought something at Walmart, though, so maybe we got parking validated. 95% sure it was free, though.

      • i was there last night and it was free – i’m bummed i didn’t think of that as an easier way to get to chocolate crust. i drive by it every day on my way to and from silver spring, but it always seemed to be a pain in the ass to park. i did have their knock off cronuts though, which i thought were delicious.

  • I hate to see a small business not success in our city, but based on my one visit, two huge issues stood out. First was the location on a busy street with virtually no parking and not really near any other established businesses, so foot traffic was minimal, and parking was a real pain. Second, I drove 30 minutes to this bakery to try the famed cronut/doissant, but by 11am on a Sunday they were sold out. As far as I knew, they were the only bakery making the cronut, and having the cronuts available all day would have given people a reason to drive out of their way to make a special trip to try that much-lauded pastry. While the other treats looked good, they weren’t special enough to drive so far for. They could have turned those cronuts into a real competitive advantage, but the limited amounts being baked made getting one really hit-or-miss. Hope that the owner has success in his next venture.

  • If this was located in Takoma it would have done much better and the rent would have been similar. There are still a few spots in the old takoma neighborhood near the metro too. The curse of a poor location.

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