This month Norah celebrates 10 years at Dandelion! Elaine sat down with Norah to ask her a few questions about her decade of many roles, locations, and experiences (and to give a hat tip to her trademark bow expertise). Happy anniversary, Norah!
Norah, give us a quick two-sentence blurb about yourself for readers.
Growing up in NYC taught me what it felt like to be on the receiving end of some epic experiences. You could say I was a student of the Masterclass on hospitality without even realizing it. From party planning to retail experiences to opening the most memorable gift, what I learned was that every detail matters, especially the small ones.
Tell us about your first day at Dandelion.
In November 2012, the WSJ wrote, “Dandelion Chocolate makes some of the best chocolate in the U.S.,” and suddenly Dandelion’s online store blew up with orders that they desperately needed help filling. I accepted a one-day gig to help label chocolate bars because I thought it sounded like fun. I remember Maya making us race to hand-label bars and hand-write the chocolate maker’s initials on the front label. As soon as we would finish a case she would swoop in and take them to ship off to their new owners.
Since then, what various hats have you worn? Which one was your favorite?
I started on the chocolate production team and quickly became the Production Manager, helping to establish our first systems and processes. After production work hours, I helped Todd create some gift items and loved it! I continued developing new products full time and created our first creative and product teams. In this role I produced a lot of firsts, such as the Advent Calendar, Annual Collection Box, Hot Chocolate Mixes in vials, layered experience gift boxes, our to-go drink experience with the cookie pockets, bar-paper differentiation for [cocoa] percentages and [bars made in] Japan … the list goes on.
Once that department was up and running it was time to take on my next challenge, our Ferry Building location. We were located just outside the building, which made it challenging for people to find us. We were excited to be able to secure a space inside the coveted Arcade Shops, which allowed me to oversee the buildout of our current space at this iconic destination.
Five years ago I moved to Los Angeles and Dandelion decided to try a new market. Prior to the pandemic, I opened retail pop-ups at ROW DTLA and at the Westfield Century City at their first holiday market, which was so special. We had a retail shop and a hot chocolate cart right next to Santa’s house. It snowed throughout the day and carolers performed to create the perfect holiday atmosphere.
During the pandemic, I returned to the creative team and had more fun than ever, because there were no limits to where our creativity could take us. Our Exec Pastry Chef, Lisa Vega, and I created our first shippable pastries, such as the Gâteau Basque, Cookies for Santa, S’mores Kit, and granola, along with others that ended up on the cutting-room floor. A few months ago we were offered a holiday pop-up opportunity on Abbot Kinney right next to Gjelina (checking all the boxes we had always been looking for in Los Angeles). What an amazing few months it has been here on Abbot Kinney. Since this was only a short-term popup, we will be closing our doors on February 19. I am excited to see what my next adventure will be (it’s definitely been a unique journey)!
As for my favorite role, honestly I am grateful for them all as they have allowed me to use my passion for creating extraordinary experiences in many different ways.
When I hear your name mentioned on the team, I always hear something about bows. Tell us more.
I have heard I am referred to as the “bow master.” My first summer job in high school (a long time ago) was at Tiffany & Co at their flagship location in NYC. Little did I know that the skill they teach everyone on your first day — tying the perfect bow — would lead to be, probably, the sole reason that Cam and Todd kept asking me back day after day. Tiffany taught me that the experience of untying the bow on a special gift is in itself a created experience and should be as special as what is inside the box.
You probably know Dandelion better than almost anyone. If there’s something that readers might not know or might not be readily apparent, what do you think it would be?
We are so transparent as a company, I am not sure there is much people don’t know. I can say that I have never worked for such a wonderful, giving company filled with such passionate people. The moment I fell in love with Dandelion was during one of my first days: Cam told me that if a guest was sitting at the bar, I could stop making chocolate and see if I could answer whatever question they might have or hand them a spoonful of fresh chocolate from the melanger. This is when I realized how aligned we were on creating exceptional experiences, and was also the moment when I knew this place was where I needed to be.