Expanding your business is a big step.  Whether you are adding product, hiring new people, opening a new store or moving to a larger space, it is a huge risk and lots of work.  The Chamber has been adding programs, events and the talent to pull it off for the past two years, so I speak from experience when I say it is exciting but overwhelming.  

Kudos, then, to River Forest Chocolates.  Donna Fantetti-Slepicka has pulled off a stunning relaunch of her business, combining a move, a larger space, a rebranding and a product expansion – all in time for the holidays.  

Usually, I try not to highlight individual businesses.  But Donna’s successful expansion is a case study in how to do it right. (And really, who is going to question chocolate and candy around the holidays?)

The first thing to know is that Donna did not rush into this.  She has been planning and looking for space for a long time.  She waited for the right one to open up: a space that had plenty of room for retail and her chocolatier kitchen in the back.  She had a clear vision for the store and her business.  She looked for a space with opportunity to arrange her merchandise so that the best selling and more profitable product lines receive premium floor space.  The new layout is intentional, following years of experience in a smaller space.

The simultaneous rebrand gave River Forest Chocolates a new logo, color palette and visual identity to complete the new space.  Suddenly, all parts of the business look fresh and clean and streamlined.  It works well together.

Even with professional help on the rebranding from Yearbook Studios, River Forest Chocolate’s relaunch relied on plenty of DIY.  Donna painted the ceiling tiles herself.  She and her family did most of the decorating, moving and installation.   All this, right before the busy Hanukkah and Christmas season, which call for sixteen hour days, seven days a week.

At a time when development and the “business community” too often mean large companies with multiple locations, it is so nice to see a locally-owned shop grow and flourish.  Congratulations, Donna!

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...