WEST OCEAN CITY – Three years ago when they held the first Death By Chocolate event, the loose configuration of area merchants who made up the various stops along the route were pleasantly surprised by the turnout. In fact they were encouraged enough that they decided to make it an annual event, but even then they didn’t know it would eventually be an anticipated annual event. As it turns out, however, locals and visitors alike recognize the weekend after Valentines Day as the time Death By Chocolate is held.
For those unfamiliar, Death By Chocolate is a contest where everybody wins, although some people win more than others. Participating merchants put together in-store specials in addition to any other sales they were running and deck their shops out especially for the event.
They also provide chocolate for browsers as well as participants. In fact sometimes people who were planning on spending the day shopping anyway elect to jump in and participate. The day has a game aspect where, like a motorcycle poker run, each merchant has to check off that a participant has been to their store. When the shopper gets to the final store they turn in their completed card and are entered into a prize drawing.
One of the things that has always separated Death By Chocolate from regular poker run-type events is that it is a game within a game. For the last few years players have picked up clues at each of the stores. By compelling the clues the players are able to solve a particular puzzle on their way to finishing the game.
Jan Patterson-Hohman, one of the owners of CraZy LadyZ and an originator of Death By Chocolate, explained that this year the game would be a jumble with participants picking up a letter at each of the Death By Chocolate stops and in the end arranging them into a word or phrase.
At the end of the game participants are invited to the after party at Sunset Grille where the prizes will be drawn and the restaurant will be offering drink — the chocolatinis are always a huge hit — and dinner specials for Death By Chocolate participants.
While the game is about getting reacquainted with the locally owned and operated shops in West Ocean City, what makes Death By Chocolate so popular is that at the center of the event is the notion of having a good time on a Sunday afternoon, blowing off a little steam and having a bunch of chocolate.
“One of the most exciting things is that even in this tough economy we keep adding merchants,” Patterson-Hohman said. “This year will be our biggest ever.”
And it isn’t just brand new businesses like Punk Rock Fish and Fairytale Resale who are coming on board. Many of the first time participants are merchants who missed out for one reason or another over the years and didn’t want to miss out again.
This year 19 shops and the Sunset Grille will all combine to provide 20 prizes to be won. At 5 p.m. the shops close and everyone heads over to the Sunset Grille for the after party. Patterson-Hohman said that the Sunset Grille will start offering the Death By Chocolate participant specials at 3 p.m. for people who finish early. The prize drawings begin at 7 p.m. at the Sunset Grille and while you don’t have to be their to win a prize, it’s probably a great way to top of a day of fun, shopping and chocolate.