Condor Chocolates

Condor Chocolates has a storefront operation in the Five Points neighborhood.(Photo/Caitlin Jett)

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Condor Chocolates, a specialty bean-to-bar Ecuadorian chocolate shop. To commemorate the event, the shop will offer samples of coffee, chocolate and a raffle that will benefit The Rainforest Trust.

The success of Condor Chocolates and other local businesses counteracts fears that Athens could be losing its culture. Though some local favorites have gone out of business, the city still retains many of the small businesses that make it special.

That isn't to say Athens shouldn't have large businesses. Corporations like Target and Walmart offer low prices and great convenience, valuable additions to any community. However, these corporations can coexist with more specialized small businesses.

Condor Chocolates has a rich history. Two brothers started the business to honor their mother and provide Ecuadorian chocolate to an Athens audience. That story fits in well with the diverse palate offered by Athens restaurants.

It’s something I appreciated when I went to Condor Chocolates last year. Like many Athens establishments, it sells a product that’s high in quality and difficult to find elsewhere in Georgia. Other local restaurants like The Place or The Grit boast similar appeals. I can enjoy a chain like Subway anywhere, but only Athens has The Grit. Restaurants like these add to the city's culture and give it a small-town charm.

The success of Condor Chocolates is especially welcome in the wake of several high-profile local business closings in Athens. Community favorites like Ike & Jane, Pouch Pies and KEBA shuttered last year in the face of rising rent prices and stiff competition from large corporations. The sudden wave of businesses shutting down stoked fears that Athens' cultural distinctiveness could disappear.

The ability of Condor Chocolates to thrive, however, shows that there’s still a place for local businesses. It’s not just Condor Chocolates that has remained successful, either. For example, Norman Scholz, general manager and part-owner of The Globe, has said that business remains strong, despite competition from outside chains.

Although there are some understandable concerns that Athens is losing the small businesses that make it exceptional, the success of places like Condor Chocolates and The Globe shows there remains still a healthy demand for local stores. Even though larger corporations may be slowly moving in, Athens will continue to retain the diverse locales that set it apart from other cities.

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