Right in the heart of D.C., on a prominent street called Connecticut Avenue, there lives a longstanding chocolate shop by the name of “Chocolate Chocolate”. It is operated by two Korean sisters who started this business in the 80’s, and today, it has grown into a family of four staff, and a lot of regular customers who are like the group of extended family.
Though I never tried their House Truffle, or Dark Moon Rising, I feel as if I know this store. Not only because they are Korean sisters, but because I understand the fear of starting a business so well. It has been mine for the last couple of months. The fear is about to get real now.
I found this book couple of days ago at the local library. I was walking by the business books section with a heavy stack of interior design books to use as inspiration when a small book caught my eyes. It simply said: Chocolate Chocolate. Who can resist that title? I picked it up without even reading the back cover. Two Korean sisters. One dream. And a thousand chocolates. The book promised many ideals and hopes. But things weren’t that rosy in the beginning.
Reading their difficult start, I felt somewhat comforted. I had to face my own difficulties, too. Starting from writing a business proposal to present to the county, and having it approved by the authority(the building is a historic house recently zoned for professional and retail space), registering my business, coming up with a trade name, and registering the name, acquiring the sales and use tax license, and then finally obtaining my business license. Once I had negotiated the rental with the landlord which was in the beginning of April, I had a long road ahead to set up my business entity. It seems all the paper works and legal issues are almost dealt with, but now I face a whole different course of problem solving. I need to find local artists to fill up my local art gallery. I also need to shop around for some affordable furnishing to make my place feel cozy. And how am I going to advertise the new business? My head is no where near the marketing department. Nonetheless, I am about to sign a contract with the landlord in the coming week, and hopefully on June 1st, I will have my key to the place opening the door to a whole new era.
And just like the book, it will be me and my sister. Well, that’s my hope anyways. Once her youngest child starts her kindergarten, she will have a few hours all to herself, and I am hoping, desperately hoping that she would want to use that time to be with me at the gallery! And what if the business grew wildly, and I would have to invite my other sister in Seoul to help me out? That would be golden. I think about all the artist friends that I will get to know. All the art lovers in town who will be like my family. Instead of chocolate, I will be offering beautiful art objects, and I will have a quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky on the wall in big capitals saying “BEAUTY WILL SAVE THE WORLD”
Some of my friends ask me if I have a gallery background. Some even assume that I am an artist just because I am opening a gallery. “I didn’t know you painted!” They say. No, I am not a painter. I am very bad at any kind of drawing. I don’t even do crafts. I scored badly in my art classes. I only write, and I paint with words if that means anything.
I want to write about a life surrounded by arts. I want to write about a life in communion with the artists and the art lovers. I want to write about being a writer with a writing studio on the top floor and a local art gallery on the first floor in the yellow house. But I am no novelist. I am a nonfiction writer. To write what I want to write, I have to live my story. Is it a curse or a blessing?
About 10 years ago, I started my career as a barista at a small coffee shop in a country town. I was 24 years old, having arrive the country just a year ago from the land far East. I applied for that job because I had a writer’s block. I was working on a novel about a young woman starting a coffee shop business in a small county town. Writing that story kept me afloat. That story helped me through my loss, confusion, and loneliness when I faced a whole new life as an immigrant ahead. But fictional stories can take you only so far. For the next 10 years, I would never go back to the story I started writing right after I moved to the new country. For the next 10 years, I would battle through bipolar depression, going in and coming out of numerous depressive episodes. Marriage would be destroyed, many drugged, drunken, suicidal nights would be survived, friends were made and were lost, and I moved in and out of houses, apartments, states, and continents.
Am I ready to rebuild my life? Do I have what it takes to start over? I am in no better place than I was in 10 years ago. Financially, I was in a way better situation back then. But with 10 years under my belt, I know a few things about me. I know that I am a bipolar survivor. I know that I love people and people love me. But most of all, I love Jesus, and Jesus loves me. So much, that he will always be by my side no matter what fate lies ahead for me. I am not afraid of anything. He knows me and I know Him. As long as I have His blessing on this art gallery project of mine, I know everything will be just fine.