Mekala Seme Mekala Seme
Intern, Communications


February 13, 2024


For 40 years, Chocolate Chocolate in Washington, D.C., has been serving the local community with a variety of European and Artisanal chocolate collections. And Valentine’s Day is no exception.

In 1984, the Park sisters, Ginger and Frances, along with their mother, Heisook, opened Chocolate Chocolate in downtown following the loss of their father, Sei-Young Park, in 1979. A senior economist at the World Bank, Sei-Young, would bring back chocolates from travels around the world, instilling a love for sweets that his family continues today in his memory.

“We wanted to do something that would keep our family together,” said Ginger. “Our shop is small, but it’s an extension of our home.”  

Making Memories for Four Decades

The early morning of Feb.14, 1984 – their first Valentine’s Day in business – was memorable for the Park sisters. They watched in awe as a line formed out the door and into the street, lasting until closing, with people needing last-minute Valentine's Day treats.

From then until today, the foot traffic the shop receives each year is a testament to the shop's dedication to crafting personalized treats and gifts for everyone who walks through their doors.

As their business continues to grow, Ginger and Frances choose to remain a small business despite the opportunities to expand it.

“We’ve been asked to open everywhere,” said Ginger. “Locally, from Mosaic [District] to Tyson’s Corner to everywhere in D.C., and even other cities like New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, and Boston.”

“We want to stay small because we want to be there,” said Ginger. “I own the business but I’m also packing boxes behind the counter because it’s what I love to do.” 

For Small Business Owners, Business Isn’t Always Sweet

Being in the chocolate business for forty years is not always sweet. The Park sisters overcame loss and struggle throughout the years with the help of their strong community.

“There were a lot of business struggles because we didn't go into to business to become wealthy, we went into business to keep connections,” said Ginger. “We went through 9/11, the crash of 2008, but the pandemic was the most challenging; it brought us to our knees.”

The pandemic came following the loss of their mother, Heisook, to cancer in 2019. Amid grief, the sisters had to re-invent ways to keep their business afloat, opting for online orders and shipments for customers needing chocolates.

“We told ourselves from the beginning, ‘We are not going out this way,’” said Ginger. “We were going out on our own terms.”

Since the pandemic, the shop has seen less foot traffic as the world has shifted to remote work with limited days in the office.

“It gets a little more frustrating in D.C. because workers aren’t coming back to their offices, but for those workers who come in once or twice a week, they are coming into our shop, and we appreciate it deeply," said Ginger.

The Park sisters love Washington, D.C., and the fond memories they have of their parents.

“Both my parents came from Korea to the U.S. in 1954 – post-Korean War – and it was a completely different world they fell in love with,” said Ginger. “We wish people would come back because this is the city our father brought us to. He came to D.C. before I was born, so it means a lot to me to preserve this city.”

Small Businesses Create Connections

This Valentine's Day is brought to you by businesses like Chocolate Chocolate. For the Park sisters, shopping small this Valentine's Day means supporting their passion and decades-old family business.

“It’s been a sweet ride,” said Ginger. "So many of our customers have become family.” 

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Mekala Seme

Mekala Seme