Death to Chocolate in Phoenix?

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Lately, it's gotten downright impossible to get a chocolate fix in Phoenix.

Sure, you can still find a Milky Way at Walgreen's, but we're not looking for the waxy stuff that you'd find in a 5-year-old's trick or treat bag. We want our chocolate grown up, funky-flavored and locally made.

Recently there's been a trifecta of chocolate tragedy with the closure of three chocolate spots in town: Godiva Chocolatier, Granny's Chocolate Creations, and Chatham's Fine Chocolates. At this rate, downtown will be down and out of chocolate options before the holidays.

Granny's Chocolate Creations in Gilbert met its sad fate this Memorial Day, disappointing fans of its caramel-dipped, chocolate-covered pretzel rods.

Colin Redding, who owned the business with his parents, tells Chow Bella, "Our family closed the doors in the 20th year of business and 50th year of my parents' marriage."

Still hoping to find a buyer for equipment and recipes, Redding blames the economy, and indicates that Granny's Chocolate felt the impact of the loss of business from their wholesale clients who were also struggling.

"During a recession, chocolate just isn't a priority for people," he adds.

What, then, is the future for other chocolate ventures? Redding offers this advice: "I've been in this business for years and the only chocolate stores that make it are in malls. You need the foot traffic to make it."

And yet, the mall wasn't enough to keep even Godiva going here in Phoenix.

Godiva Chocolatier, at the Biltmore Fashion Park, shut the doors on its small shop for good in May. And according to a Godiva rep in New York, "There are no plans to open any new stores in Arizona in the future."

Ouch! As sad as that is for fans of their gold-boxed ballotins, neither Godiva, nor reps for the Biltmore would discuss their closure, or even confirm their last day in business. But we know the reason. Given that we've actually spotted patrons at the Biltmore wearing last year's Gucci heels, we'd say budget-busting is the new black. Farewell hand-dipped chocolate covered strawberry of enormous proportions, we hardly knew you.

Another sad departure happened a while back, but we're still reeling. Chatham's Fine Chocolates, the inner sanctum for the local chocolate lovin' set -- run by the always cheerful and charming proprietor Chatham Kitz - closed doors after an inventory sell-off in December.

At the time, Kitz blamed the economy, as Chow Bella's Michele Laudig reported. Sadly, light rail - which opened mere days after his sweet store's final hours -- just might have provided the foot traffic he needed to stay alive. Always the optimist, and looking to find work, Kitz now says, "Don't know what's in my future, but I hope it's fun."

We hope so, too, and with any luck, it'll involve his great taste in selecting truffles, chocolate bars, and funky packaged treats.

Who's left if you're hungry for some meltingly good chocolate? After these closures, sadly, we're down to far fewer local chocolatiers. Notable ones include Glendale's Cerreta Fine Chocolate, and the Wei of Chocolate, a favorite at the the Downtown Phoenix Public Market.

Open for 40 years, Cerreta's still gives daily tours, has a retail shop, and can be found all throughout the Valley at retail outlets, including Safeway.

The Wei of Chocolate is currently without a retail home, but according to chocolatier Lisa Reinhardt, "we thrive...at the Downtown Market."

Reinhardt's views on the economy and chocolate are refreshing: "No one I know has stopped eating chocolate because of the economy! Chocolate becomes even more indispensable when times are tough."

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