An Open Response to Mast Chocolate

One in a series of images captured in the NYC subway system with Hipstamatic©2018 Clay Gordon

This comment was originally posted on Medium in reply to Rick’s reply to my comment

Rick, Mike,

I have waited to respond to [Rick’s reply to my comment on Matt Robertson’s article on Medium] because I wanted some time to reflect on what Rick wrote. I had other writing projects to complete that helped me clarify my thoughts.

I agree with Rick completely in one respect. We both want the same thing: a healthy and vibrant chocolate industry filled with diverse voices and delicious products.

I can’t and won’t nitpick Rick’s narrative as I don’t have personal experience with much of it, and so I can’t speak to it. Looking through my archive, my last emails with Rick date back to 2009 and our memories of events that occurred then — and after — diverge.

A look back at the history of the past twenty years of chocolate reveals few names that drove public awareness of small maker chocolate more than Mast Bros. Thousands — tens or hundreds of thousands, or maybe even millions of people—were motivated to try “craft” chocolate for the first time because of one name — The Mast Brothers. Tens of dozens of new small makers around the world were and are inspired by Mast Bros packaging, Mast Bros branding, and Mast Bros chocolate. There is no denying that influence.

But I think what drove reaction to the stories was simple disappointment.

The disappointment we all felt was palpable. The entire small maker segment felt let down. They all wanted to believe. They really did. And they still do, when it comes right down to it. We all miss the early days of these eager two Iowa farm boys in chef coats and tats and sailboat models — and yes, beards — when anything and everything was possible and there were no limits.

I went into a store recently and saw some of your bars. They no longer say Mast Bros. They just say Mast. Really?

You were the brand. But you no longer are.

Now, as then, you choose to go it alone. Time and again you said you didn’t, and appear to continue to say you don’t, want or need the advice or help or support of anyone who is considered an expert in the chocolate industry. You deliberately choose to remain apart.

Did we take delight that you closed the factories London and Los Angeles? I know I did not wrong my hands and chortle with glee when I learned of the closings. It would have been great for everyone in the industry if you could have made them work. But their closing didn’t surprise me. I ran some quick numbers and I knew the economics were against long-term success — at least from what I could discern of the operation in LA.

As Rick says, I did reach out with an olive branch — in August, 2016 to be precise — but that offer was rejected.

At no point since Megan Giller’s first article dropped has anyone at Mast proactively approached me for an interview and tour. If asked, I would have happily come, and, believe it or not, with an open mind. I am happy to be proved wrong and have no problem saying publicly that I am wrong when I am.

We all want to believe.

Because, in the end, if there is one thing I think we can all agree on it’s that we all want the same things: a healthy and vibrant chocolate industry filled with diverse voices and delicious products.

That olive branch is still proffered.