Reflections of a new sales associate at Appleton Chocolates

I have now been at the AC for over a month. I am certainly feeling comfortable and accustomed to the ebbs and flows of the work week. I have my routine where I am able to get stuff done in our garden during the mornings and on my days off. I seem to be able to schedule some semblance of a social life; it certainly helps that I really don’t know anyone who has a 9-5 M-F job.

I have my own ups and downs each day.  There are definite lulls in the day, mainly beginning after 4:30 p.m. or so and continuing until we close at 7.  I can appreciate the owners’ efforts to stay open to 7 p.m..  However, besides the eating establishments, no other businesses are open beyond 5 p.m. We get folks between 5-7 who come into town for their evening meal and then seek us out for a tasty dessert treat.  Alas there are also very few restaurants to choose from, and from those that are open they often close early so let’s say 7, perhaps a cultural legacy where folks here had their large meal midday which they call dinner not lunch (I am not going to call this meal ‘dinner’ since it is not a dinner to me!).

I have to honestly say I don’t find the choice of eateries that great since it is just standard/average fare so lots of fat/salt/sugar.  I was recently checking out the online reviews and it does seem that you get quite the mix from pretty bad to pretty good ratings for almost all places.  Of course it is all relative when it comes to food, I mean personal taste … well… that’s not completely true. Some may think I am food snob but if I am going to eat out and use my money wisely, I want food I don’t normally prepare myself and I want good quality ingredients hopefully with some local included as well as different foods, not stuff from those huge corporate food service providers which only provide corporate ‘foods’ (nothing local, nothing organic).  It t is almost impossible to have vegetarian fare which is beyond a salad (almost always the salads here have meat options for f…sakes) or fries (usually frozen – ugh!!). When I was a vegetarian I was like I am not a rabbit thank you, and I can make your boring salads at home for much cheaper and with better ingredients. I know I have had the privilege to experience amazing food so my standards are perhaps higher then the average person’s but still….please…there is an untapped market here for perhaps a bistro type place with innovative dishes catering to all, not just the meat eaters.

Besides us & restaurants there really isn’t anything to do in this town in the evening – i.e. it is deadsville even on weekend nights; it is just too small of a place and there is no culture of going out.  It doesn’t help that the folks who might go clubbing, like 20s & 30s somethings are a rare breed here, having left either for studies or work. This also probably isn’t surprising since folks don’t necessarily live within walking distance to friends, there is no public transit of any kind nor any private taxi service of some kind (an idea for a new business? – probably not since there wouldn’t be enough business and folks wouldn’t/couldn’t afford to pay what it would cost).  This is partially due to the lower income of folks, so people drink at home especially when the bar prices for drinks can seem outrageous as compared to getting your own beer at the beer store or from the local bootlegger.

Side note: The NS liquor laws are crazy stupid here since bars have to pay the same cost of a beer that a member of the public would be charged if they went to the beer store so duh… a bar has to at least double if not triple the cost of a beer for the markup. Side note: Tatamagouche has entered the big league since there is now pizza delivery from the local and busy pizza joint, delivery service you do have to pay for but they actually deliver to River John where we only have a seasonal pizza joint.

Overall the business has been booming with far greater sales then they have ever had and could have expected, so much so that they are having difficulties keeping the shelves stocked.  Of course this is a good thing.  I can’t help but be apologetic to the customers stating we alas don’t have certain …. types of products in let’s say milk or white or dark.
I am doing some packaging of product so that can keep me busy on some days. Otherwise tending the cash, keep shelves stocked and doing some cleaning here and there, that is pretty much the job.  Some days when things are slow and customer just trickle in, I have my spiel down where I give the history of the place and explain the products.  On slow days I do feel this gets a bit monotonous, always having to repeat myself but that is the nature of retail and of an artisan store. I know folks are interested in the backgrounder and it really doesn’t take long to tell the story.  It is interesting to hear how the other employees including owners give the spiel.  We each of course have our on ways to tell the story, which facts to include or to emphasize.

What makes my day always are the gem conversations I have with certain customers.  Not that I get to experience this everyday but on average there is one neat encounter per day or every 2 days. I have to say the conversations aren’t about chocolate.  They are either politically oriented or travel oriented.  I also really enjoy speaking French which almost happens everyday at least once.  I have once been able to speak Spanish & once Dutch but not unsurprisingly this is going to be rare.  Now if I could speak German well there would be more folks to chat with. There are at times when there is an odd encounter or conversation, and even rarer an irritating customer but I certainly can’t complain on that front.  There are the very few who you find the chocolate too expensive.  However when you are able to actually show them by watching one of the workers actually creating the magic in the ‘chocolate’ room (one of the production rooms where the chocolate is worked – the chocolatier is like he is in a fishbowl in a temperature and humidity controlled room), folks are amazed at the time and effort needed to create handmade chocolates.  Some have even said the prices are low!

I am feeling good about the energy between all us members of the AC team. It is a good group of people and I am happy to be part of it.

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