When Fran Bigelow opened Fran's Chocolates Ltd. in 1982, the Seattle store was in an area not yet bustling with retail business. Using exclusive chocolates from around the world to create desserts and European-style chocolates, Bigelow offered a superior product but lacked the advertising budget to show the difference. So she relied on editorial coverage--and the power of taste--to spread the word.
Targeting the food editors for two Seattle newspapers, Bigelow sent letters educating them on the fine chocolates she uses and included samples. Within two weeks, both papers published stories on her shop. "All of a sudden, people knew what I was doing," says Bigelow, 59. She still remembers her surprise when she saw the line wrapping around her building the day after one story ran: "People do read the newspaper!"
Those articles led to more exposure, including Sunset magazine and The Book of Chocolate (Flammarion), which named Bigelow "The Best Chocolatier in America." With projected 2003 sales of about $4 million, the chocolates are sold in specialty and retail shops nationwide, as well as in Bigelow's two Seattle locations.