Barb McCann has Friends all over the
world. Since creating a website for the
Chocolate Vault, the business she and Jim
McCann own at 100 W. Chicago Boulevard, she
gets daily e-mails not only from the United
States, but from England, Norway and Germany,
to name a few.
"And they keep coming back." she
said. Some have ordered before, like thewoman who describes the person she wants to
purchase a unique gift for,what their
interests are and then trusts Barb to come up
with something. "She knows I know
what she wants."
There are also companies that have standing
orders, and each week Jim and Barb ship items
such as personalized chocolate business cards
to corporate clients - or potential clients -
who make the requests.
Five years ago, Barb says she knew very little
about Internet technology but took on the
challenge of learning. Demand for
novelty chocolates is growing, and consumers
look for themselves when giving gifts or
planning special occasions such as
weddings. Barb and Jim have watched the
trend take off for several years, since Barb
has been teaching candymaking and selling
supplies in Tecumseh for nearly three
decades. Still, she is amazed by some of
One young Lady recently e-mailed about her
wedding reception plans.
"She was going to have 10 tables and each
had to have a different theme relating in some
way to their courtship." Barb said.
It's a tall order, but she's become accustomed
to the different things people will ask.
If a couple met in Paris, for instance, they
might want a chocolate Eiffel Tower, which the
Chocolate Vault can provide. They have
thousands of molds. Even on-line
customers are often pleasantly surprised at
what they can provide and also by the added
dimension they'll get at the www.chocolatevault.com
site: customer service.
"I try to treat people on-line the same
way as in the store," Barb said.
She starts with a greeting like "Hi, can
I help you?" They'll then say something
like, "I'll bet you don't have a
chocolate cactus." Invariably, the
Chocolate Vault will not only have what they
want but have different sizes, and it will
come in milk chocolate or dark.
Since embarking on the Internet portion of
their venture, which Jim likens to their
"branch office," the McCanns have
learned some things. They've discovered
having a physical store lends them more
on-line credibility with customers. It
helps show they know about chocolate, they
make it themselves, and they have quality
control, something that's important to them as
well as to their customers. They've
learned the biggest drawback is the expense of
their 2-3 day shipping window. There are
places where shipping is impossible, like the
Far East, but they get orders from there,
often directed to U.S. friends and family.