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When their beloved father died suddenly, authors Frances and Ginger Park (To Swim Across the World) comforted themselves with chocolates and mused on opening a confectionery shop with their small inheritance. The idea felt right to them--"a shop our late father would've loved just by virtue of its contents: chocolates and daughters"--and despite their inexperience, they decide to go for it, with their mother as silent partner. In 1984, on the day f their Washington, D.C., store, named Chocolate Chocolate, ...
When their beloved father died suddenly, authors Frances and Ginger Park (To Swim Across the World) comforted themselves with chocolates and mused on opening a confectionery shop with their small inheritance. The idea felt right to them--"a shop our late father would've loved just by virtue of its contents: chocolates and daughters"--and despite their inexperience, they decide to go for it, with their mother as silent partner. In 1984, on the day f their Washington, D.C., store, named Chocolate Chocolate, opened, they already were beset with difficulties, from crumbling walls and cracking floors installed by a shoddy, shady contractor to trying to conjure strategies to gain attention and sales. Bit by bit, their clientele grows; the sisters write fondly and often humorously of the recurring characters in their new, chocolate-centric lives, from favorite customers to the kooky sales rep who becomes an employee and dear friend. They easily move between musings on friendship and family, all the while offering inspiration and valuable lessons for budding entrepreneurs. The recipe for their house truffle rounds out this appealing, engaging memoir that's sure to appeal to a range of readers, chocoholics or not. --Publishers Weekly
"Could there possibly be a sweeter book written by two adorably joyful sisters? Their struggle to keep their now-successful store alive since its opening in 1984 is detailed in lively prose. Best of all, the fragrance of chocolate and sugar seems to waft from the pages of this heartfelt memoir." --Carol Memmott, USA Today
"Forget the economy, the disaster in Japan, the Middle East revolutions, even the oil crisis. Read this story of the American dream coming true." --Booklist
"Smooth, soft-centered confection that goes down with a smile." --Kirkus
“Heartwarming and fun, this inspirational story of how two young women created a fabulous chocolate boutique s will have desperate chocoholics mainlining chocolate syrup and snorting cocoa until they can get hold of the real thing.” --JoAnna Carl, author of The Chocoholic Mystery Series
“A charming tale of two sisters who turn their passion for chocolate into an entrepreneur’s dream by opening a luxurious chocolate boutique in Washington D.C. With a fiercely loyal stream of quirky customers, a strong commitment to family and an unflappable sisterly bond to inspire them, the Park sisters confront life’s ups, downs and in-betweens with all the grace and elegance of a perfectly formed chocolate truffle.” --Tish Boyle, author of The Cake Book
“The ultimate cautionary confectionary tale, replete with all the romance, ups and downs of any great food drama. This is a book to curl up with, along with the delicious, toothsome comfort of all the Godiva, Lindt, Baci and Bouchons, and (mood-altering) Half-Moon Buttercream Dreams you could wish for.” -- Marcy Goldman, Author, Master Baker, A Passion for Baking, The Baker's Four Seasons, founder of www.BetterBaking.com
“Chocolate Chocolate is a tale of sheer determination, overcoming evil villians, and ultimately, hard-won success. The divine descriptions of mouth-watering chocolates, the bursts of wisdom, lush detail and sisterly bond make this a very sweet read.”--Helen Tse, author of Sweet Mandarin
Two Washington, D.C., siblings, disillusioned with life and love, join forces to realize a sweetly successful venture.
In the early 1980s, a time the Park sisters recognized as one of "luxury and excess," Frances ("Francie") and Ginger ("Ginge") opened their dream boutique sweetshop mere blocks from the White House. Though life became bittersweet since their beloved father passed away a few years prior, both women write of a steely resolve, a dedication to family and a passion for chocolate they'd inherited from their hardworking Korean parents. Becoming chocoholics "long before it was a diagnosis," the sisters parlayed this lifelong adoration into a joint business plan, agreed on a name (based on a delectable double-chocolate brownie recipe) and set forth making "Chocolate Chocolate" thrive in the nation's capital. But the road to profitability proved arduous as mouthwatering taste-tests failed to buffer a series of dilemmas including tedious location scouting, a contractor's shoddy workmanship, bomb threats, a near-disastrous grand-opening party and months of flagging sales. With patience and diligence, Francie, Ginge and their doting mother eventually began to develop a steady, eccentric clientele of chocolate lovers. Sales flourished, bolstered by whimsical holidays and a flood of media attention, and the girls even managed a few dating adventures. Despite the experience of a string of Korean-inspired children's books (The Have a Good Day Café, 2005, etc.) and a novel between them, their memoir develops a surprisingly rambling quality and boasts a generic narrative voice lacking the intimacy of a first-person perspective. Still, the Park sisters' cheery adage remains the definitive take-away: "There are times when only chocolate can make a bad day better."
Smooth, soft-centered confection that goes down with a smile.
Starry foil wraps velvety dark chocolate around a creamy hazelnut nugget and a love note to remember
January 11, 1984.
“Lights on, Ginge.”
On a bitterly cold day in the nation’s capital—a day so cold the statues were cracking—our moods matched the sky. Gray. In a makeshift shop held together with temporary glass panes so thin we could feel the wind, our lights went on for the first time.
Our opening day felt anything but grand.
Ginger shivered in her blue wool coat. She had worn her brand-new silk dress for nothing; no coats were coming off today. Francie’s hair, poofed to perfection, was frozen in place, and her chandelier earrings hung like icicles. The seven years that separated us were obvious even in the way Ginger scooted closer to her big sister in faux fur, hoping to share a little body heat. It felt like our general contractor had neglected to put in a heating system. And where was our sign?
Did the fool do anything right?
We burst into a duet of four-letter words, climaxing with murderous cries:
“I hate him!”
“I hope he goes to hell!”
Let’s face it: There are times when only chocolate can make a bad day better. That’s when you summon the most luminous piece of chocolate in the shop, one that sings to you. That chocolat du jour. After mulling, Francie claimed a royal blue box from the shelves, loosening the white chiffon ribbon and peeling off the seal. The lid lifted up like a cigar box, revealing rows of bonbons dressed up in silver foil with blue stars. Nugget shaped, these were the world-class Perugina confections known as Baci (“kiss” in Italian). Pure opera.
“Dig in, Ginge.”
One Baci for Ginger—pluck. One Baci for Francie—pluck.
Even unwrapping our Bacis was an exquisite affair. The love notes tucked inside the foil were almost as comforting as the creamy-crunchy hazelnut chocolate itself—we were both promised exciting romance in the near future. Since neither of us had much of a love life going on, the Baci tasted twice as nice. Life just got a little grander.
* * *
The Reagan era in Washington, D.C., was a time of luxury and excess. Chic boutiques lined the streets and socialite types in minks stepped in and out of limos—it was winter, always winter. For two girls grounded in their Korean parents’ humble beginnings in this country, the dripping wealth came close to culture shock.
Still, we’d done our homework and asked our architect to design a ritzy-glitzy sweetshop that captured the look of the day with Italian lighting, mirror-finish black marble floors, and three bubble-glassed candy cases. We were lucky enough to seal the deal on this location a stone’s throw from the White House on Connecticut Avenue. Now our little no-name shop stood among Burberry and Cartier like Cinderella at the ball, a shop our late father would’ve loved just by virtue of its contents: chocolates and daughters. Were he alive, he could walk over from the World Bank during his lunch hour and visit us.
Yet were he alive, we would never have gone into business in the first place.
* * *
A few years earlier, Mom was accompanying Dad on a business trip to Bangkok that first included a personal stop to Seoul. Their itinerary, however, was cut short: En route, Dad suffered a fatal stroke in his sleep on the ninth floor of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Hotel.
Back home, we were stunned. Lost. Dad was the one we looked up to. In a world where we grew up feeling we didn’t quite belong, where even some of our neighbors made us feel unwelcome for being Asian, Dad’s mere presence made us feel safe.
His World Bank colleagues always kidded him for settling his family down in middle-class Springfield instead of Great Falls and for driving a Gran Torino instead of a Mercedes-Benz. But Dad shunned lavish living on a globe where orphans still wandered and begged on the streets of postwar Seoul. He left their haunted faces behind, but sometimes the American way of life was a guilt trip for Dad. The truth was, he’d drive a jalopy as long as his family was with him.
That last night, had Dad known he would never wake up, he would never have fallen asleep.
While our siblings—older sister Grace and brother in between us Sam—remained close by, we grew Siamese. And while our natures were night and day—Francie dark, Ginger bright—without Dad, the only way we felt whole was to cling to each other, so cling we did, sister to sister until our souls were stitched tight. If we stuck together, somehow things would work out. Our grief was so deep only the promise to stick together and look after our widowed mother made us able to cope. Feel whole.
At the time, Francie, a published poet who couldn’t stomach the New York literary scene, was halfheartedly working in an office at George Washington University. She was taking graduate courses in this and that and was dating a sweet pot-smoking professor. Because she didn’t want to marry, Jim moved on—literally, to teach in Chicago. Ginger, who was attending a local college, had been infatuated with her guitar-strumming boyfriend Matt until she got the sense that he cared more about his guitar than her. Soon enough, she broke things off.
Suddenly, we were both single. Our destiny up for grabs.
Ginger lived at Mom’s house with our moping Irish setter. Every night at seven o’clock sharp, Goldie would sit on the staircase by the front door and wait for Dad to come home from work. Francie rented an apartment closer to the city, though she was over half the time.
“Why not you save money and live here?” Mom would beg her. “Two empty bedroom.”
“Sorry, Mom,” she’d decline with a hug.
At twenty-four, Francie needed her own place, somewhere to steal away to if only for a moment and ponder the literary what-ifs of her life, even if her own current catchphrase was “It ain’t happening now.” She had Dad’s death to recover from.
* * *
Chocolate was our comfort food, and we spent our days munching away on Hershey Kisses wondering whether we should go into business together, invest in a new life with the small inheritance Dad left us. Not really a far-fetched idea …
Once upon a time, we were Big Sis, Little Sis, celebrating every Christmas next to the fake silver tree our family dragged out of the attic year after year.
One particular holiday, the fireplace crackled and spat while Dad nursed his pipe and Mom puffed on her beloved Virginia Slims. Ginger was putting on an acrobatic show for the family, a razzle-dazzle routine of handstands, somersaults, and aerials. Between sips of sherry, our parents watched their youngest and nodded, whispering to each other in Korean. Sitting on the plaid couch in our wood-paneled rec room, sharing the stolen moment, they came together as almost the same person.
Christmas in our household had always been about singing Korean songs and eating hot chestnuts, not exchanging extravagant gifts. So Ginger couldn’t believe her eyes when she tore the wrapping off a big red-and-gold-striped box and found that her wildest dream had come true: At six years old, she was the proud owner of an Easy-Bake Oven.
“I can’t believe it!” She danced around the room.
“Sorry, Ginge, but you’re too little to operate this thing by yourself,” Francie observed.
Mom set up the oven on the yellow laminate kitchen counter to the right of the sink. There, facing a window that overlooked our backyard, we spent every morning of that Christmas vacation baking up a storm. The Easy-Bake Oven Shoppe was open for business! By noon, the whole house smelled of cake. When Dad came home from work, the lingering aroma, warm and homey, put him in a good mood.
“My little bakers have been busy!”
We were a true sister act, bickering, laughing, and licking our fingers, our entire focus that holiday on an oven whose heat source was a thumb-sized lightbulb. We burned through bulb after bulb, making miniature cakes from Easy-Bake kit mixes, turning them out so fast we could’ve opened up shop. The cake mixes came in several varieties, but one flavor ruled.
When we ran out of the chocolate mixes, we had to think, think, think. How could we turn the white cakes into chocolate ones?
Francie clapped. “I got it.”
We mixed a spoonful or two of cocoa into the white cake mix until the powder turned chocolate colored. Then we added water and stirred the brown batter into the two mini–cake pans. Breathless, we slid the pans into the Easy-Bake and peered through the glass window waiting for the moment the cakes began to puff higher and higher.
“Here it comes, Ginge.”
When the cakes were cooled, Ginger proved her wunderkind ways when it came to things chocolate.
“Get me down the Bosco!”
Grinning wickedly, she spooned the syrup all over the cooled cake. The frosting, though runny, was gorgeously chocolate, as was every black crumb on the counter.
* * *
So, could we stay Big Sis, Little Sis as business partners? Did we have the true enterprising spirit to make it work?
Dreams were possible. Our parents, who had survived harsh times in Korea under Japanese rule and the Korean War, were proof. Dad, reared in a one-room mud hut with a family of eight, was blessed with a passport out of poverty: a gift for language. He worked his way to Harvard University and the World Bank until one day he bought the house of his dreams in suburban Virginia where he planted his gardens and built a life. Meanwhile, Mom, with an English all her own, staked her claim as boss of the Park home and, despite a childhood of being served meals by maids, learned to cook Korean feasts the neighbors could only dream of. That our parents came to America with nothing more than the clothes on their backs made us believe we too could do anything we set our minds to.
Since we were chocoholics long before it was a diagnosis, opening a sweet boutique felt like the most natural thing in the world. We began to dream of a store filled to the brim with chocolate, the smell of it wafting onto the street and luring in strangers. Maybe we’d even make friends. Build a business and a life, a rich life, around chocolate. Our shop would be our home away from home.
The only problem? We were two blind mice who didn’t know what we were doing. After all, how on earth do you build a mythical chocolate castle? We couldn’t even come up with a name.
Chocolate Heaven? No.
The Chocolate Bar? No, no.
A Chocolate Affair? No, no, no.
Aside from Mom, who planned to be our silent partner, most people thought we were out of our minds to go into business, especially when interest rates for bank certificates of deposit ranged from eighteen to twenty-one percent. You girls will never see that kind of return. How much chocolate can you really sell? Plus, you have no experience. Play it safe. Keep doing what you’re doing.
We didn’t listen. We had our calling.
Besides, we were sure we had Dad’s blessing. In his lifetime, he fulfilled many dreams but not the Big One: to one day return to his war-torn homeland and help make a difference; perhaps even run for president. As a senior at Yonsei University, Dad had been appointed personal secretary to the country’s first president-elect, Syngman Rhee; fluent in English, his role was to serve as a liaison between Korea and the United States. The Korean War would change everyone’s fate, including his. During his years at Harvard grad school, the political climate in Korea turned more dangerous than ever, and he ended up not only postponing the dream but also resculpting his ambitions in America. He took much pleasure and contentment in life here. However, in 1979, the timing turned ripe, both politically and personally. Ginger was ready to graduate from high school and he was offered a cabinet position in Korea. Now he was ready to fly to Seoul to engage in discussions and hopefully live out his dream. Tragically, it was on that trip that he lost his life.
Yes, we had Dad’s blessing every step of the way. And it wouldn’t surprise him to know we were still thinking chocolate.
* * *
One day Ginger pulled a batch of brownies out of the oven to cool while Francie sat at the kitchen table at Mom’s house—our designated “headquarters”—perusing wholesale catalogs mailed to us from San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Chocolates and the Dutch maker Droste. We were trying to drum up a name for our shop to be. Think, damn it, think … The brownie aroma was too distracting.
Ginger sliced her sister a brownie nearly as big as the paper napkin it was served on. Francie’s first bite was accompanied by an uninhibited groan of pleasure.
“Where’d you find this recipe? They’re so chocolaty.”
“No recipe.” Ginger chewed. “I just added chocolate chips so they’re twice as chocolaty. Double chocolate.”
Francie licked crumbs, eyes dreamy, half closed. “Chocolate … chocolate…”
Ginger looked at her. “What’d you say?”
At that sister-to-sister moment, genius struck us.
We did a silly dance.
Ginger sliced the rest of her brownies into mouth-popping bite-sized cubes. We popped away, starved.
“You know, you should think about making a signature piece of chocolate,” Francie suggested. “Just one piece to put us on the map.”
“Naw, too much pressure.”
“You’re a ditz in the kitchen.” Ginger coughed up crumbs. “You can’t even sift flour.”
Licking her fingers, Francie laughed. “True, so true.”
Soon thereafter, we both quit doing what we were doing. No longer lost, we would road-map our lives together, with Mom at our side, of course. Dad, too, in spirit.
Copyright © 2011 by Frances Park and Ginger Park
Posted June 6, 2011
Chocolate, Chocolate is a sweet, true story about two sisters who dream of opening a chocolate store in Washington D.C. When their father dies unexpectedly just as he is about to achieve his lifelong goals, Ginger and Frances are devastated. With the small savings he leaves them they work to realize their own goal of opening a sweets stop, but it turns out to be a little harder than they expect. First they must find the perfect, jewel box storefront, but the landlord turns out to be the Evil Empire. Then they hire a charming, cheap, and ultimately useless contractor who swindles them. As they bravely open anyway Ginger and Frances find themselves in an all too often empty store with the shelves literally crashing to the floor around them and huge cracks appearing in the floor. But the two are determined to honor their father and, together, they believe the magic of chocolate will pull them through.
What really makes this cute little book are the characters constantly wandering in and out of Chocolate, Chocolate. It quickly becomes clear that the sisters like their customers almost as much as they like their chocolate! The endearing vignettes of the various people they meet and befriend are enough to make anyone envy the girls their profession. As Kahlua Lady, the Bulldog, and Our Girl Friday come and go Ginger and Frances rent a typewritter and begin writing their stories in between helping customers. Its a charming picture that they create and reading the book is like being invited to join in the fun. Chocolate, Chocolate is a sweet, feel good, easy read that goes down as smooth as a House Truffle!
Posted May 21, 2012
No text was provided for this review.
Posted February 15, 2012
No text was provided for this review.