Amid pandemic, chocolatier says 'hot chocolate bombs' saved her business

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Florida, Michelle Palisi was just as worried about her livelihood as she was for her life.

"I didn’t want to have the COVID virus take me out by not getting it, but by having no sales," Palisi said.

The New Port Richey chocolate shop owner says, as coronavirus spread, her sales shrunk.

"Oh, we had days where we had no sales at all – we had days where we maybe got, $20 or $30," she said.

The chocolate shop was one she started from the ground up 39 years ago. Palisi says she started it by saving $2 per day by quitting smoking, saving every penny to open the business. By the time COVID hit and other businesses were closing, she took a catering job to stay afloat.

"I’d cook meals for people, which was going really well until the restaurants re-opened up," she said. 

Turning back to her chocolate business, it wasn’t long before a social media trend called "chocolate bombs" caused her sales to blow up.

"Everyone was like, ‘Do you have bombs? Do you have hot chocolate bombs? Do you have hot chocolate bombs?’ she said. "Almost every customer that came in bought the hot chocolate bombs."

The concept is simple: Palisi makes hollow chocolate spheres using a mold, then adds the marshmallows and hot chocolate. She seals them up, drizzles on extra chocolate and sprinkles.

And when you’re ready to enjoy, just pour hot milk over it.

In the span of three weeks, Palisi says, she made nearly 1,500 of them. The demand grew so high, at one point there was a waiting list. 

"I had three people constantly making hot chocolate bombs," she said. "People came from Largo, from Homosassa; they came all over just to get these hot chocolate bombs, which was phenomenal."

In her 30-plus years of growing this business, she never believed a social media trend would save it.

"It was great," she said. "It was really a decent Christmas compared to the nine months we weren’t doing anything."

Chocolates by Michelle is taking the trend through the next several holidays, with plans to make ones for Valentine’s Day and Easter, and even football-shaped chocolate bombs for Super Bowl parties this February. The prices range from $3.99 to $6.99 each.

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