After closing dine-in services for more than a month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Queer Chocolatier co-owner Morgan Roddy shared concerns online May 4 about the business' financial situation. In response, community members raised more than $10,000 in donations for the store.
Daniel Todd, a regular customer, asked Roddy if he could create a GoFundMe page for Queer Chocolatier after reading Roddy's blog post.
Todd learned how much money was needed to keep the business afloat and initially set up the page with a goal of $6,000. Expecting a couple hundred, Todd said he could not believe it when they discovered they surpassed their goal in the first 18 hours of the fundraiser. The GoFundMe page displayed almost $10,800 in donations Saturday.
“I just couldn’t stand to see the business have to close down without at least trying to do something about it,” Todd said.
At first, Roddy said she was worried that asking for fundraising did not fit with Queer Chocolatier’s image.
“It’s one of those stories that you read about happening to other people in other places and you don’t expect that to happen to you,” Roddy said. “It meant a lot, and it was just really touching and uplifting to be held in good spirits with the community.”
Small Indiana businesses such as Queer Chocolatier have been forced to make decisions because of the state-wide shutdown. Roddy decided to close her dine-in services more than a week before the state required because she felt she needed to protect her customers and employees.
Todd said he enjoys the atmosphere Queer Chocolatier provides.
“When you walk in the door, Morgan is always there and she greets everyone like family,” Todd said. “Whether you go every week, every day, or it’s your first time, you will always feel welcome.”
Like many other customers, this business means a lot to Todd. Family and safety are just a couple ways he describes what Queer Chocolatier means to him.
”For LGBTQ+ people who are not 21 yet or choose to be sober, there are not a lot of places where they can feel safe,” Todd said. “Whether it is because of their past, or directly related to their identity, they will turn to substance abuse at a disproportionate rate. Having sober spaces is very important. Queer Chocolatier is the only one of its kind in Muncie.”
Roddy said her business in a much more comfortable financial circumstance now.
“We have raised enough through either the donations or product purchases to get us through September,” Roddy said.
She will spend this summer creating a whole new line of products which include homemade chocolate from beans, as well as their own crafted chocolate bars. As for the future of Queer Chocolatier, that is still unknown. The lease ends March 2021, so business and revenue the next few months will weigh heavily on Queer Chocolatier's future.
For now, Roddy said she wants to continue to be someone who supports and provides safety to the queer and trans community. She said she wants to continue making chocolate and things with chocolate, and she looks forward to seeing how the brand will grow. Adapting to changes will be the new normal for now, but she said she is up for the challenge.
“When the community stepped forward to uplift me and carry me through this very difficult time, to the point of bringing me back from the brink of losing the business, that is a strong sign of solidarity,” Roddy said.
After the GoFundMe page received attention, the business went from 10 orders a month to 200 orders in three days. While it is great that students and the Ball State and Muncie communities want to support locally owned businesses, Roddy said another way to extend that support is to give grace and patience to these hardworking businesses.
“Sometimes we are backlogged on supplies [or] learning about the procedures made by government entities,” Roddy said. “It’s new to all of us, so let’s be gentle with one another as we continue to survive through this.”
Heather Williams, president of the Riverside/Normal City Neighborhood Association, is a resident member of the Village Alliance. This group has been utilizing Facebook to promote Village businesses like Queer Chocolatier and share messages related to COVID-19 as they relate to the Village.
“It would be helpful for students to ‘like’ the Village Alliance page to keep up to date on when/how Village businesses are opening,” Williams said.