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Melissa Palmer describes herself as a first-generation Roanoke native. Her family moved here for her Dad’s job and she has “lived, gone to school, gone to church or worked in just about every zip code and town around this region.”
When asked to name her favorite zip code, she replied, “There’s no such thing as the zip code I like the best. It’s all region-based.” Although, she does readily admit to loving ‘downtown’ Roanoke.
Melissa is a graduate of William Fleming High School and Hollins College. Most of her career life has centered on banking and investments. She has been a bookkeeper for Junior Achievement and for the Transportation Museum in Roanoke for many years.
She’s the co-owner of chocolatepaper and offers several great tips for small business success:
* Be patient!
* Be Committed!
* Stay the course!
* “Know how you work best and train your people to then communicate with you that way.”
Melissa Is Passionate About Making A Difference Through Her Involvement With Junior Achievement
“I’ve worked with Junior Achievement since 1998 as their bookkeeper and I’ve volunteered in numerous classrooms. That is a direct way to make an impact on a young person’s life.”
Melissa continues, “You are teaching financial literacy, workforce development, as well as entrepreneurship. If you’re going to give these kids the tools that they need, they can create their own success. I think that’s the bedrock!”
“I’ve taught a class with a little kindergartner in my lap. I’ve taught a class where I’ve held a student’s baby as I was teaching the class. These people directly need to hear these messages from someone who is not their normal voice. Their ears listen differently.”
Her Uncle’s Dream Turns Into Reality
Melissa’s Uncle opened up a greeting card store named CardsCardsCards in Roanoke’s newly renovated Market Building in August of 1985. A few months later, the area was hit by a 100-year flood.
It obliterated downtown, the Market Building and his card inventory. He headed to Richmond and opened a greeting card store there, under the same name. It morphed into Mongrel – ‘cool stuff for all breeds of humans’ – and became a gift store.”
There was still a dream to fill. “My Uncle has always wanted to have greeting cards and chocolates together. A card occasion is a chocolate occasion.” About ten years ago, they along with Melissa’s cousin Matt Burkett and Mongrel Co-owner Stan McCulloch began the search for a place to locate the business.
“We discovered a location in Southwest County and we were successful right away.” The branding and the message got out and the response was phenomenal.
Soon, it was time to continue growing the customer base by expanding. Melissa shared, “We felt we needed a second location in Downtown Roanoke.” They opened the Roanoke shop in 2008.
The Secret Of Sweet Success
“We really believe it’s our product mix…chocolate and paper. Our greeting cards are as big a draw as our chocolate. We believe diversification is the key to any business success.”
“We wanted to have the highest quality for both of those,” shared Melissa. “And, the gift products that we have are unlike any others in the Valley.”
“The Downtown store is huge and amazing to look at. We increased our gift selection, increased our greeting cards and increased our chocolates. We’ve sort of made it more of the event that it is.”
Melissa continued, “We added our tasting room, which we’ve had a lot of fun with. Then, in Southwest County, we left a small boutique inside the Oliveto Olive Oil Store.”
chocolatepaper Delivers What It Promises — A Unique Experience!
Listen to the well-earned pride as Melissa says, “chocolatepaper offers a treat for the palate, the eyes and the soul!” She quickly adds, “The gifts are a unique and eclectic mix. We’re a little bit edgy and urban.”
And, customer service is a staple! “We don’t make you tie ribbons or bows here,” said Melissa, with playfulness in her voice. “We’ll tie that bag for you!”
Then, in all seriousness, she added, “We really try to create a unique mix that you’re not going to find anywhere else. The chocolate is delicious. We bring our chocolates in from all over the world and just up the road.”
But, Melissa doesn’t play favorites with the selection. “Well, I always say start at the left in the case and work your way over.” As for popular items, “our sea salt caramels are pretty amazing. And, Deschutes truffles are from Moonstruck and they are made with a reduction of the craft beers.”
“We provide opportunities for you, the customer, to come in and buy yourself a treat or buy someone else a treat. We win award after award for the best gift opportunities… the best Roanoke items.”
The greeting cards are very specific and telling. There are so many to choose from. “Our greeting cards are really giving a thought from one person to another. It’s not just selling a product that you take home and put on your shelf or utilize. Those things are wonderful. But, ours are about the message that’s behind it.”
Contacting Melissa Is Easy!
– Article Written with content provided by Episode #011 – interview with Hal Cone.