PHILIPSBURG–March 19 was a sad day for chocolate lovers when Belgian Chocolate Shop closed its last location in St. Maarten due to a slowdown in the economy after Hurricane Irma.
Co-owner Rose Liriano said all of its structures had been destroyed by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
“Despite this, we chose not to give up and to reopen our point of sale of Philipsburg as soon as possible, hoping that the hotels and the airport would open quickly,” Liriano said. “Unfortunately, after a year of efforts and customers expected not being there, we could no longer bear the cost of maintaining a deficit structure, and we decided in June 2018 to close the store on Front Street until the situation improves and allow us to reopen again a point of sale in Phillipsburg.”
She said the small booth located at Port St. Maarten “was just allowing us to maintain Belgian Chocolate Shop N.V. until better days.” However, that location at Port St. Maarten was closed on March 19.
“The economic blow has been very great for a small company that sells sweets. Added to this is the condemnation of the court to pay for employee dismissal. It was too much for a small company. We felt compelled to cease activities on the Dutch side.”
She said St. Maarten is still strong, but stressed that “without cooperation or understanding, the country will not be able to get out of the situation in which Hurricane Irma placed it. St. Maarten remains strong and I wish all the best for the island and its people.”
Belgian Chocolate Shop has been operating in St. Maarten since 1998. Liriano and her husband bought the business 2½ years ago.
“We were at Old Street and after Hurricane Irma, we relocated to Front Street Village with no success, because Belgian Chocolate not only worked with the cruise lines, but also with the hotels.”
Asked about the impact of the closure, she said: “The impact of the closure I cannot say too much. As you must know by now the cruise lines are not bringing quality tourists, and I don’t think it will get any better in the near future. As far as I know this problem is not only happening in St. Maarten, but in most of the Caribbean islands. Cruise-ship tourists are not spending money. Without hotels, I cannot see how Belgian Chocolate could have remained open. This was a business that worked 100 per cent with tourists, and with locals on special occasions.”
She said payment of rent, salary, taxes and other expenses had become too much for the company to handle.