FOR THIS MONTH’S PEOPLE OF DOWNTOWN, WE HAD THE GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO INTERVIEW MARC LIEBERMAN, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF MINK CHOCOLATES
Marc Lieberman grew up in the Canadian Prairies with his mother, an artist, father, an entrepreneur, and younger sister, a soon-to-be journalist. In 1970, when he was only thirteen years old, Marc’s family made the decision to move to Vancouver. “The city was still a sleepy little fishing village in search of an identity,” says Marc.
No stranger to our district, Marc has worked in the downtown core since 1984. Career-wise, Marc has worn many hats; he’s worked as a clothing agent, a manufacturer of retail store fixtures and display props, a billiard club proprietor, and a quick-service food concept developer and franchisor (to name a few). Marc’s current “hat” finds him as the President and Founder of Mink Chocolates, an award-winning café, shop, and chocolaterie.
Mink is a chocolate lover’s dream-come-true that features an extensive line of hand-moulded small-batch chocolate bars, bonbons, truffles, chocolate fondue, and much more. One can also order a hot or cold chocolate beverage, with or without coffee. The chocolaterie first opened its doors in downtown Vancouver in 2006. “There was no discussion at all about where the first location would be-it was downtown all the way,” Marc exclaims. Mink’s first location was born at 863 West Hastings Street, a storefront connected to Terminal City Club and Lot 19. Located steps away from the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal and the Vancouver Convention Centre, Mink Chocolates “was fortunate enough to have secured a prime location,” he says.
Like many other businesses in downtown Vancouver, the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on Mink’s operations. “We were closed from March 16th, 2020 through to August 15th, 2020. That closure came on the first day of spring break and just before Easter, both of which historically bring in a lot of business for us,” says Marc. Although they suffered a loss in revenue during this time, their chocolate did not go to waste. Mink was able to donate a lot of inventory to various charities through the “Mink Cares” program, and generated some sales through their online shop. To stay afloat, the chocolaterie made use of several government assistance programs like CEBA and received some additional help from their landlord. “Taking on debt to survive is not a sound strategy. Instead of buying equipment, developing new markets, or hiring staff, we now have financial obligations that will set us back years. Thankfully, we are starting to see signs of a rebound,” he says.
“There have been, and continue to be highlights,” Marc says of running his business thus far. Experiencing the vibrancy of downtown during the 2010 Winter Olympics is something he will never forget. Marc also recalls fond memories of meeting, hiring, and training staff from all over the world; “sponsoring their applications for permanent residency has been tremendously fulfilling,” he says.
“It’s easy to make friends in the chocolate business. I am proud to have lost count of how many people have told us how wonderful it is that we’re still here,” Marc says excitedly. COVID brought many challenges to the downtown core; however, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. “I am optimistic that downtown Vancouver will soon return to its former glory,” he says.
You can visit Mink Chocolates in person at 863 West Hastings Street or online.