I lead a very settled life. My friends don’t come over to help me move, but to make sure I’m staying put. I’m comfortable with the brand of disposable razor I feel is less injurious to my skin, and I have all my favourite channels programmed into my car radio. I’ve set up my sock and underwear drawer so that nothing is worn out of rotation, and I’ve added a digital component to the schedule that manages my daily doses of medicines for which I now get a discount at Shoppers Drug Mart, thank you very much.
So it was a bit of a shock to land in New York City for the luxury packaging show recently, because that town is anything but settled. It’s an urban antidote for a midlife crisis. At any time of the day or night, on any street and in any direction, there is a sea of yellow cabs seemingly fighting to get upstream to spawn, and a teeming mass of humanity chasing the spectacle on foot. They say you can tell a New Yorker because they walk on the street instead of the sidewalk. One thing for certain, is their impatience.
I’m walking down Broadway from 24th, headed for Soho, to meet up with an ex-Mink staffer now working at the flagship Aritzia store, when I get not-asked for directions. There’s me, innocent pedestrian, hoofing down the street, when I hear a horn, and all of a sudden some guy is like, “BROOKLYN BRIDGE!” like I was supposed to text him directions and because I didn’t, I’m wasting his time. “C’mon, let’s go, Brooklyn Bridge!” but before I could pull out my walking map of Manhattan and explain that I’m not from there, I get the finger, and he’s gone.
I eschew the GPS function on my phone for the comfort of unfolding a large map on a windy street corner and using a credit card sized pocket magnifier to read the streets, and determine which way I need to walk to get to the next of the many landmark chocolate shops I have to try before leaving town.
I can now see New Jersey, and suspect I’ve walked in the wrong direction, so I phone my wife and ask her to Google directions to Kees Chocolates, and while she’s at it, give me the street view so I can anticipate landmarks.
“Did you go to Max Brenner’s?” she asks.
“Yes, and I bought Levi a t-shirt,” I reply.
“Burdicks, Jacques Torres, Maison du Chocolat?” she inquires further.
“No, yes and yes”, I reply.
“Black Hound, MarieBelle, The Chocolate Bar?” she continues.
“Yes, yes and no, because the Chocolate Bar stopped making those filled pucks you liked so much, so there was no point.
“Who else besides Kees is still on your list?” she wants to know.
“Ever eat so much chocolate that it makes you sick? Isn’t that the best?” I answer.
One of the things I’m specifically looking for at this show, is a way to package Easter eggs so I can sell them year-round, but not as Easter eggs. As a delivery vehicle of chocolately taste and texture, mini eggs are the perfect mouthful, but the Easter connotation is limiting.
I saw Jim Gaffigan do his bit about Easter eggs live at the Vogue Theatre a number of years ago, and have repeated it often:
”Easter, that’s a weird tradition.
In a female voice: Easter, the day Jesus rose from the dead. What should we do?
In a male voice: How ’bout eggs?!
Female voice: Well, w-what does that have to do with Jesus?
Male voice: Alright, we’ll hide ’em.
Female voice: I don’t…I don’t follow your logic.
Male voice: Don’t worry, there’s a bunny.”
If you take away all the companies catering exclusively to fragrance and cosmetics, the show is small. I walk it through once for an overview, then go back to each booth of interest and make my inquiries. It seems the tactic of having one buxom mini skirt to hand out samples, flanked by a guy who just last month was running a blogger recovery support group and is now VP of International Sales, is par for the course.
“How many stores in your chain?” is generally the opening comment after reading Mink Chocolates on my lanyard tag.
“Two, plus e-commerce,” I say, at which he turns his back on me and to the model asks her to keep an eye out for the guys from Dolce & Gabanna.
I meet some folks from San Diego who print tissue, and have been to Vancouver. They in turn introduce me to a group from Chicago that make round boxes, and who happened to be hockey freaks, so they too, knew a lot about Vancouver, and both were receptive to my small company stature, and were willing to talk custom packaging even though my maximum quantities are as much as their machines can churn out just in the time it takes to turn the machine on and off.
At this stage of my settled life, if it’s the choice between buying a motorcycle, getting really into skydiving, or going to New York for a trade show, wisdom dictates that while I have the life experience, the confidence, and a steady paycheque to do either of the former, the latter scratches the midlife crisis itch, and is actually good for business.
Mink Chocolates Inc.,
Mink A Chocolate Cafe Ltd.
Call toll free: 1.866.283.5181
Monday. Fred calls and tells me that if I don’t attend the Boys Dinner this year, he’ll take me off his guest list. Fred lives a secret double life as a DJ, and is well known for his Yaletown block parties that generally don’t start until I’m asleep. It’s been over a decade since I’ve attended one. The Boys Dinner is different. It’s at Gotham Steakhouse, and begins at a respectful 8PM. I figure I can say my hi, how are you’s? and polish off a 16 ounce rib eye in under an hour, and still make my curfew.
Thursday. The holding area at Gotham is full of stockbrokers vying for the attention of a small group of women who probably don’t eat meat, but definitely wear fur. I quickly find Dave Newson, at large, astride a bar stool, nursing a Manhattan. I order a Whiskey Sour in a highball glass. Dave introduces me to Andrew Mortimer Lamb, a dealer in exotic cars, who they affectionately refer to as Mo’ Sheep. Mo is remarkably calm, given that he just entrusted a 2011 Rolls Royce Ghost to valet parking. I self-parked my Hyundai at a meter, and at a dollar for eight minutes, took out a loan to do so.
During dinner I reconnect with the two fellows sitting on either side of me. Henry was a great photographer. Now he’s importing Turkish yoga towels and becoming one with his chakras. Didier works with wood, and is divorced from his socialite heiress wife. He got the same ultimatum from Fred. Show up, or face ostracism.
Across from me is a guy from Chicago who Fred was visiting recently when he texted me to say he was on Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile, shopping for sweets. I asked him to go to Vosges for me, and pick up as many Mo’s Bacon chocolate bars as he was willing to bring back in his carry-on. He did, and I ate most of it myself, but did bring some to work to share with my staff. Offering pieces on a plate as a tremendous example of the marriage of sweet and salty, everyone dutifully took some. Susha ate it hesitantly, and then asked what it was exactly.
She’s vegetarian. I let her extend her lunch hour so she could have her tongue professionally scraped.
William held sway over the table for much of the second course, regaling us with tales of frustration and woe over the City permit and inspection process he recently went through to build out his new sports bar concept attached to his downtown deli. Shades of Morgan Crossing! The names were changed to protect the innocent, but it could just as easily have been the story of the Mink build-out in South Surrey.
Saturday. Fred calls to give me a recap of the boys’ hijinks after I left. Apparently, a Ghost can hold nine close friends comfortably if they’re only going two blocks to the Fairmont. Fred didn’t quit drinking that night until I was waking up that morning. He tells me he feels sorry for people who don’t drink, because when they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.
I contemplate going back to bed to get mo’ sleep. Now that I’ve re-upped my membership in Fred’s inner sanctum, I fear I’m going to have to make another appearance, somewhere, sometime, and I want to be well rested.
Mink Chocolates Inc.,
Mink A Chocolate Cafe Ltd.
Call the store: 604.633.2451
Call my mobile: 604.376.3464
Call toll free: 1.866.283.5181
Watch: youtube.com search mink chocolates
In Person: 863 Hastings Street West, Vancouver, BC V6C 3N9
Nine out of every ten persons say they love chocolate. The tenth lies.
– Anthelme Brillat-Savarin