Godiva, the incomparable Belgian chocolate maker, is closing every one of its retail shops in North America. Maybe you’re blaming the pandemic but Godiva claims foot traffic at shopping malls – where most of its boutiques are located – “plummeted” over the last few years. I’m sorry to see Godiva go. Mind you, it’s not that I make a habit of buying $3 truffles. It’s more the idea that I could if I wanted to.
Godiva is the cremè de la cremè of chocolate. Their products are born of a family business dating back to 1926. Their Truffe Originale, “an intense dark chocolate mousse in fine dark chocolate, rolled in pure cocoa powder”, is the standard by which most Belgian truffles are measured. Godiva’s three chefs are profiled on its website (I discuss one of them in my post Confection Perfection), and endeavor to maintain the very high standards of Godiva while churning out new and different creations. It’s no wonder Godiva isn’t considered a “candy store” or a “chocolate shop” but rather a chocolatier. Only the very best get a label like that.
To me, Godiva chocolate is a taste of heaven on earth. But it’s also a taste of a lifestyle – one most of us will never afford. Godiva has me picturing mansions (not houses), yachts (not boats), private planes (not the middle seat in coach). Godiva is a brief, delicious dip into the behind-the-gates world of the uber-wealthy.
I’ve stepped into a Godiva chocolatier exactly twice in my life. The first was in college, after a visit to the Rizzoli bookstore at exclusive Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago. After spending too much money at Rizzoli I was in the perfect mindset for Godiva (which was right next door). I still remember selecting a single truffle from the glass display case. The petit woman behind the counter wrapped up my tiny purchase in box, bow, and bag, as if I’d just purchased a fine piece of jewelry. She bid me a fond farewell. I walked out of there feeling, well, special.
My only other visit to Godiva was more recently with my wife and daughter, on a Saturday at one of Denver’s nicer shopping malls. We’d just come out of Starbucks, coffees in hand, and there beckoned Godiva. After much deliberation, we spent the better part of $10 and walked away with three truffles. I’m sure they were elegantly wrapped. I’m also sure they were delicious. But with Godiva, it’s more about the taste of something beyond your means. That taste may be more satisfying than Godiva chocolate itself.
Tiffany is a comparable experience (as I wrote about in my post All That Glitters). Walk past the front-door security guard into their multi-level department store in downtown Manhattan. Your first thought will be either, “I don’t belong here”, or, “I’m underdressed”. Ooh and ahh at their lavish necklaces, bracelets and rings, but don’t expect to see price tags. Like Godiva, Tiffany’s best is behind glass and you have to ask a staff member about the cost. My wife and I made it to Tiffany’s fifth floor before we found something we could afford – a pair of ceramic coffee mugs. At least we also walked away with their signature blue gift boxes.
Then there’s Prada, the Italian fashion house famous for its luxurious leather handbags and shoes. My twelve-year-old daughter dragged me into their Madison Avenue boutique once (past the requisite security guard) but I realized our mistake as soon as we entered. Prada displays maybe a dozen items in a single museum-like showroom, each carefully positioned on an individually lit shelf. You are invited to sit on the central couch and offered a choice of beverage. Then a person brings you items of your choosing (but don’t touch!). Once I realized Prada purses start at $1,000, I asked my very disappointed daughter if maybe she’d like to go for ice cream instead.
Godiva’s North America retail shops will be gone by March, but you’ll still have other options to purchase. You can find small displays of their products at the cash registers of upscale department stores. You can order most of their delicacies online (including “Gold Box” assortments, which cost more than you can afford). You’ll even find Godiva’s “Signature Mini Bars” at lowly retailers like Target and Walgreen’s. But let’s face it, Godiva is as much about the experience as it is the chocolate, and I’m just not gonna feel uber-rich when I’m at Target.