Introduction\n\nI came to Manchester in 2011 to start my first postgraduate job fresh out of Uni, which included four years at the beautiful University of York campus and one industrial placement year in Bristol. With offices in Cheshire, a pad in Altrincham (I've since moved) and the opportunity to make new friends, I really grew to love the place! As a city, Manchester is far smaller than the big smoke from which I hail (no where near as small as my favourite city Bristol), and like every GREAT city has its own little individual pockets that give it an undeniable identity. One such pocket is the fantastic Northern Quarter with its small independent shops, interesting people and atmospheric venues to while away the time. It was in this Northern Quarter many years ago that I stumbled across a tiny little café that became one of my favourite attractions (not just Manchester), especially for someone with a very bad sweet tooth 🦷.\n\nCharlie and the Chocolate Factory\n\nOne thing to know about me is that growing up, Roald Dahl was my favourite author (I'd better not use that for any security questions 🤣), and I loved the book 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' (I preferred the 'Great Glass Elevator' follow up because I'm a nerd, just saying 🤓). My sweet tooth made me comparable to Augustus Gloop, and I'd have definitely fallen into the chocolate river under "mysterious circumstances". Chocolate has always been my thing, and one day, strolling through the Northern Quarter, I happened across a TINY café with perhaps 7 seats in total, all inches away from the counter. As an intrigued window shopper, my curiosity got the better of me meaning that I just HAD to investigate. No Golden Ticket required in this case, I just walked straight in through the welcoming entrance.\n\nOne thing that was always striking about Bonbon was it's décor, look and signature feel. Whenever you walked in, it felt like you had set foot inside a place that didn't exist anywhere else in the ENTIRE universe. This was it, and this was where it only existed. Compare that to all the chain stores present on EVERY high street in the UK, where the usual suspects has (at least) one of their stores placed in a prominent position that you cannot miss. Bonbon was decked out with its own handmade chocolates either sitting there looking all sweet or wrapped in a variety of colours 🍬, cakes, handwritten chalkboard signs and that small set of rustic furniture. If you peered around the counter, you were greeted by the sight of their special hot-chocolate making apparatus and the smell was next level! The most interesting part were the decorative day of the dead 🇲🇽 styled skulls 💀, dotted about the place, and knowing how that sounds, actually helped give the place a really cosy and romantic feel (no lie).\n\nIncredible Bonbon Chocolate Boutique hot chocolate with a peanut butter cookie sandwich\n\nPersonality is Important\n\nDespite the unique look-and-feel of Bonbon, the real stars of the show were of course the people who worked there. You first had the manager Madame Bonbon, real-name Sharon who every day embodied the place with her attention to detail, great service and incredible fashion sense. Along came Fay a bit later who too embodied the interesting vibe of Bonbon as well as bringing her own unique sense of style and purpose. From my first visit, I was always made to feel welcome whether I was with friends or had popped in alone for a quick drink to satisfy that incredibly bad sweet tooth of mine. They always made the time for you and ensured that you felt like a valued customer which had me coming back many times.\n\nI remember moving away and being excited when I returned to Manchester just so I could pop in! I would introduce my Manchester-based friends, and also take my friends from other towns and cities whenever they came to visit. The cosy décor and warm atmosphere was always welcome, and everyone agreed that they'd never tasted hot chocolate like that before! One cup was most certainly NEVER enough!\n\nChocolatiers Sharon (Madame Bonbon) and Fay\n\nPerfect Hot Chocolate\n\nI don't know if I've said it yet, but the hot chocolate was greatest, full stop, end of sentence. It was of the dark chocolate variety, so whilst it had that almost bitter tinge they managed to balance the flavour expertly to make something that tasted truly special and unique. Because of its delicate consistency, it went down silky smooth with absolutely no resistance, and coupled with the taste meant that, were it not for the temperature, your beverage wouldn't last very long! You also had the option of various real flavours that could be added, including orange, mint and my (sweet tooth) favourite, salted caramel (surprise surprise).\n\nYour perfect hot chocolate was served in a cup without a handle, normally with a Lotus biscuit on the side for extra sweetness. This meant that in order to sample the delightful concoction that you'd been served, you had to wrap your fingers around the (now warm) cup which to me added to the cosiness of the Bonbon experience. That brief moment that you and your group shared in this dinky little café became a unique occasion frozen in time, which could never be replicated again anywhere else. They had cultivated an amazing atmosphere around enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and maybe a sweet eat with people that matter, which was an incredible achievement in itself.\n\nThank you all for contributing to such incredible memories with Bonbon Chocolate Boutique 🍫🍫🍫.\n\nAll Good Things...\n\nAlas, these experiences stopped in 2018 with Bonbon sadly closing its doors. Both Sharon and Fay moved on and the world is unfortunately left with hot chocolate no where near the standard set by this little place. Prior to the final closure and after a brief hiatus they moved into the bottom floor of Manchester's Affleck's (Palace dropped from the name) which kept the same premium quality, welcoming friendliness and quirky décor, only without some of the cosiness as the place was a lot bigger and more spacious. The larger size was probably beneficial for them, as more people could simultaneously enjoy the delights offered. Alas, this was only a temporary arrangement and they eventually closed for good 😔.\n\nIn a heartfelt post on their Facebook page, they announced the news that cemented the loss of an incredible establishment with amazing staff which provided so much joy to so many people's lives.\n\nThe Bonbon Chocolate Boutique (very sad) farewell message\n\nSo what happened? According to an interview with Sharon, their move to Affleck's came with an indefinite lease, and because rents in the area had shot up tremendously, she didn't think they'd be able to afford to stay in the Northern Quarter. Clearly something gave and Bonbon closed, not to be seen again. A sad end to an establishment such as this, but everyone involved should be immensely proud. They might be gone, but they have most certainly not been forgotten.\n\nBonbon Voyage? Chocolatiers Face Uncertain Future as Developers Pile into Northern Quarter\n\nIdentity is Important\n\nPlaces as special and unique as Bonbon give us and the areas that we inhabit an undeniable identity. With the current destruction of the high street, and erosion of small independent shops in popular areas we risk losing what makes us special. Against the backdrop of high street homogenisation leading us to the SAME business in EVERY shopping centre with zero differentiation, establishments like Bonbon offer us that reason to visit. They provide experiences that cannot be distilled into their essential component parts to be bottled and sold all over the place to the detriment to the overall product/service being provided. For me, this is far more memorable than tripping over one branch of a chain into another branch of the same chain in any given district.\n\nBonbon Chocolate Boutique TripAdvisor\n\nIf there any establishment(s) that makes you feel the way that Bonbon made me and countless others feel, support them, introduce others to them and shout about them as much as you can. Behind the four walls, décor and quirks are real people who's presence will be missed should they shut their doors forever. Let's be proactive, lift each other up and NOT be embodiment of the age old quote:\n\nYou don't know what you've got until it's gone\n\nTake care and all the best. Si.