Chocolate shop tries new approach to giving |

Chocolate shop tries new approach to giving

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

VAIL ” Maybe we’ve all received too many e-mails from Nigeria.

When Ira Brody and his partners in Rimini, a new dessert/coffee/gelato store, recently opened their first shops in Vail and Beaver Creek, they agreed they’d like to do something to help the local community.

Brody, a public relations man with long experience in fund-raising and corporate giving, helped his partners put together what they thought was a bold plan: offer every nonprofit group in the valley a certificate for Rimini’s products. The certificates could be used as part of raffles, silent auctions or other fund-raising activities.

Brody put together a list of around 300 local nonprofit groups and mailed letters a couple of weeks before Christmas. The expected flood of responses never came.

Now, in mid-January, a small handful of nonprofit groups have responded, leaving Brody and his partners scratching their heads.

What happened?

Most of the few responses to the Rimini letters came after a brief mention of the program was published on a Vail Daily business briefs page a few weeks ago.

“It seems like there’s the assumption of validity with a notice in the press,” Brody said. “People are conditioned to look out for scams.”

Another reason for the lack of response might have been the letter. It’s complicated.

I talked to Brody at the Rimini store in the Arrabelle over gelato and hot chocolate one day after Christmas. Even face to face, it took a while get what felt like a good understanding of what Rimini is trying to do.

The package the store sent out Dec. 17 is four pages long, and includes an application form, as well as an invitation to one of several “orientation sessions.”

Given Brody’s background in what’s known as “cause-related marketing,” those sessions could be useful. But time is tight for most people involved with local nonprofit groups. It could be that people needed something more simple.

‘I’d like to know more’

“We’re sure interested, but I’d like to know more,” said Annah Scully, director of the Vail Performing Arts Academy. “But I love the fact that a new business is interested in getting involved in the community.”

Scully said the Vail Performing Arts Academy doesn’t hold raffles or silent auctions, but does get a ski pass every year it puts out to bid. She can see the same thing happening with a Rimini certificate.

Tsu Wolin-Brown, the case worker for the Vail Valley chapter of the Salvation Army said she’d like to know more, too, and acknowledged she didn’t quite understand the letter Brody and his partners sent out.

Like most people in the nonprofit business, Wolin-Brown and Scully said they would wholeheartedly welcome any help Rimini would like to provide. But that help needs to be as straightforward as possible.

Dan Smith is involved with a handful of local nonprofits, including the Salvation Army and Vail Mountain Rescue. He answered the letter to Vail Mountain Rescue, but said the letter sent to the Salvation Army was misplaced in the mountain of mail the organization gets in December, the charity’s busiest time of year.

Smith said he’s had a couple of conversations with Brody, and got the impression that the Rimini offer is worth pursuing.

“He’s a nice guy,” Smith said. “And I’m going to talk to anybody who offers me a chance at money.”

Smith and others who have sampled what Rimini sells (including me) say it’s great stuff.

Building word of mouth

Those treats are also expensive, and aimed at a growing number of people who treat chocolate like fine wine. A certificate for $20 worth of chocolate, gelato or other items would settle just part of the bill for a party of four.

Brody acknowledged that Rimini sells a high-end, high-priced product, but believes people looking for something different in Vail and Beaver Creek are willing to pay for quality. And, of course, having several customers coming in every week for $10 or $20 worth of treats is a great way to build word-of-mouth advertising from locals to visitors.

Smith is one of those ready to recommend Rimini.

“I love his chocolate,” Smith said. “And I think somebody would bid on (a certificate).

“I’m at a loss why people aren’t responding.”

Part of the answer may be that in a valley where nonprofits ask for donations, it’s struck people as odd to have a new business offer help out of nowhere. Nonprofits are also frequently offered “donations” that are mostly a way for businesses to get cheap advertising.

Brody said he’s recently talked about the program with Eagle County Humane Society Director Char Quinn, so perhaps there’s a buzz building. If so, we may start to see Rimini certificates popping up on silent auction lists across the valley.

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