Jonesborough Chocolate Fest gives small businesses a big boon

Bethany Oakes, owner of Downtown Sweet, poses for a photo inside her previous storefront during the Jonesborough Chocolate Fest on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Photo: Jonathan Roberts/Johnson City Press

Downtown Sweet, a popular chocolate and dessert shop in downtown Jonesborough, is leaving its storefront and going mobile — with a home base in central Johnson City.

Downtown Sweet moved to its most recent location, 101 E. Main St., last May. Store owner Bethany Oakes made the decision to buy a food trailer after the business she shared the space with left in mid-March.

Oakes said when the other business left, she took a deeper look at Downtown Sweet's finances and figured that because most of her business came from wholesale and special orders, a food trailer made more business sense than a brick-and-mortar storefront, something she had been considering since the pandemic began.

“As much as I love being in this building, it doesn’t really constitute this amount of money I’m paying every month to stay here, especially with (the other business) gone,” Oakes said. “I was like, honestly, it was a smarter business decision because I cut my overhead by about 70%.”

The trailer will take up semi-permanent residence in downtown Johnson City at 111 King St., a planned food truck park called King Mercado, which will be open Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Downtown Sweet will be open Thursday through Saturday, with hopes of opening in about two weeks.

Oakes said she learned of the spot by chance when somebody who came into her store mentioned they were buying furniture for a food truck park after Oakes told the customer of her plans to go mobile. And while Oakes is looking forward to her new adventure, the move will be bittersweet.

“I’m going to miss a lot about downtown Jonesborough,” Oakes said. “You build a lot of relationships and community with people and you have your regulars and you have people that you ... like, I had my last tea party last weekend and I almost cried a little bit because it was something we could do in the store that we can’t really do in the truck, but we are making it an option for people to actually hire us to cater a tea party for them.

“We are kind of transitioning that way, but it is kind of sad. I think I’ll miss the tea parties and I think I’ll miss just the general events that they put on.”

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