Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 11 January 2013 00:00
The holidays were not festive for business owner Lee Perrotta. On Christmas Eve, Perrotta, owner of The Chocolate Lady, noticed a plumbing problem in the basement of the building on Audrey Avenue where her store was located. The problem was so bad, it forced her to shut down her business. A week later, she found herself moving out of the space she had occupied for more than four years, because it was inhabitable.
“I had no water to make chocolate with. My life is upside down, my home is upside down, my clientele is displaced,” says Perrotta. “There were no holidays for me.”
The displacement comes right in the peak of chocolate season, which Perrotta says lasts from October through May. A staple of the Oyster Bay community since she opened shop, Perrotta knows her customers likes and dislikes and says she is heartbroken over the loss of her shop.
“These people are my family, my friends,” she says of her customers.
She says her landlord refused to rectify the plumbing problem and even told her to fix it herself. As a result, Perrotta has lost the prime location on Audrey Avenue.
“People are in shock; I have been told there were people crying outside of the store, and I have had customers calling me crying and wondering what happened,” Perrotta says.
“I’m deeply saddened by the recent closing of The Chocolate Lady in Oyster Bay, for several reasons,” says Kathryn Prinz, of FootPrinz Reflexology & Massage Therapy and Prinz Music Studio, Oyster Bay. “The Oyster Bay hamlet business community has lost a one-of-a-kind destination business; the patrons of The Chocolate Lady will no longer get to enjoy Lee Perrotta’s wonderful chocolate creations; and I’m especially sad for Lee, who put her heart and soul into this business she loved.”
Because she cares so much about her customers and does not want to lose the base, she is doing what she can to keep the continuity. She is looking to secure temporary space at Buckingham’s, and to also rent out space in a commercial kitchen where she can make her chocolates.
“It’s great that she’s staying in Oyster Bay,” says Walter Imperatore of the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce. “She has been embraced by the community since she opened shop. She has a good product and it is good to have someone who is that involved stay in the community.”
Perrotta, a trained chef and chocolatier, has written cookbooks, teaches, lectures around Long Island and has also done chocolate tastings. Last year she brought the first chocolate festival in Oyster Bay on Valentine’s Day. Because of her networking, her business has drawn tourists to Oyster Bay, in addition to the walk-in traffic. A lot of her business comes from repeat customers and corporate orders, and she says she does not necessarily need the boutique for income, but loves what it has to offer her customers and cherishes the personal relationships she has created.
Despite the setback, she has no intention of losing her business, and has considered opening “pop-up” shops around town, like the one she has in Dodds and Eder. Additionally, clients can order her chocolates by phone or online at www.chocolateladyboutique.com.
“I am the Chocolate Lady, and I will continue to bring amazing chocolate to Oyster Bay.”