Local businesses like Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro are rising to the occasion during quarantine.

We hear a lot about how the government and non-profit sectors are responding to the coronavirus, but local businesses are playing an essential role in the community as well. From small changes in day to day operations to major business-model adaptations (such as a gourmet chocolate bistro selling everyday groceries), San Diego businesses are finding ways to meet the community’s needs. Indeed, in addition to providing essential goods and services, local businesses are proving just how important they are to the fabric of our neighborhoods and our health as a society. Sway recently had a chance to chat with Daniel at Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro to learn a little more about what they are doing to help meet the needs of their neighbors in South Park.

A makeshift sign of the times in a window at Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro.

Tell us a little bit about what Eclipse Chocolate is like when we’re not facing a global pandemic.

Normally we’re a bustling bistro, hosting private parties or chocolate-making date nights, and a full-service restaurant serving brunch and dinner daily. We’re closely connected to our neighborhood, so it’s likely you’d find a gaming meetup, fundraiser, or supper club in our private event room. Our team would be preparing for a packed weekend, especially with the rain being perfect mocha weather. Scattered showers with a 100% chance of chocolate, for sure.

"We believe food fosters community and community fosters food. In times of crisis we need to ensure families are fed and that food finds a good home. "

—Daniel, Service and Private Events Manager

How did you come up with the idea to adapt your gourmet chocolate business by selling groceries as well?

We believe food fosters community and community fosters food. In times of crisis we need to ensure families are fed and that food finds a good home.

We literally became a grocer overnight. On Monday morning following the mandatory closure, we posted signage, rearranged our furniture, cleaned absolutely everything, and displayed all our ingredients using our spacious front dining room as a bodega, rather than a brunch cafe.

Practically speaking, as a restaurant we needed to find a creative, immediate way to safely and responsibly manage our existing inventory. We knew we could continue to offer our full menu for delivery or pickup, but also noticed we also had several ingredients our neighbors needed.

Our space is easily cleaned and controlled, with plenty of space so people can maintain a healthy distance, We have a comprehensive online store that even offers customized chocolate bars, so we knew we could handle online orders for curbside pickup. It seemed so obvious to us that we knew we had to try.

A chic chocolate bistro is transformed into an old-time grocery counter.

What has the response from the community been like?

Our neighbors have been relieved to find fresh ingredients they can trust, without the crowds, waits, and headache. Because you can order groceries and chocolate online for curbside pickup within the same day or two, we can gather your selections and hold them aside, ready for when you arrive. The response has been very encouraging, and we’re grateful to make this experience less stressful. We’re mostly seeing orders from right here in South Park, but we’ve had nurses pulling up at the end of their shift, guests driving from North County for essentials, and parents with toddlers who just need this to be a super-quick, pull-up-and-go errand. We’re thrilled to be open, and making new connections while feeding families in a new way.

Are chocolate sales still going strong?

Dark times call for dark chocolate. Since we now also sell bottles of wine, we can offer all of life’s necessities. You can easily shop online and pick a chocolate gift set, along with wine, cheese, and your groceries, and zip on by. Chocolate is at the heart of what we do, and you can design your own chocolate bars online. The social distancing between you and chocolate is zero.

Do you see a rainbow on the other side of this storm for Eclipse Chocolate and our community?

Although devastating, we have seen some wonderful human moments already, especially neighbors buying others’ groceries for them. We see neighbors walking their dogs, going for jogs, and loading up their wagons with groceries on their way around the block. On the micro-level, we can report that Americans are continuing to find creative ways to care for each other.

Visit eclipsechoclate.com to order your groceries online, and check out their amazing chocolates while you’re at it! You can also find them on Instagram @eclipsechocolate.