JUPITER, Fla. — The COVID-19 pandemic has led many people to suffer from isolation, especially those with special needs who aren't always able to comprehend big changes in their day-to-day lives.
After about a year of being closed because of the pandemic, a special Jupiter business that employs adults on the autism spectrum is back open and returning some normalcy into the lives of those who work there.
"Basically, my customers were starting to complain and they said, 'How come you're not open? Everybody else is.' And I said, 'You know, it's time, and we can do it safely now,'" said Valerie Herskowitz, owner of the Chocolate Spectrum.
The red neon light in the window of the shop located off Indiantown Road is illuminated again and inside, the mixing and measuring of ingredients have resumed.
Herskowitz said she and her son Blake are happy to be back. She opened the shop five years ago after seeing the lack of work opportunities for those with autism, like Blake. No one could have imagined that a few years later a pandemic would shut things down.
"Because our shop is so small, we really couldn't figure out a way to do it safely in terms of social distancing even with masks," Herskowitz said.
Herskowitz has been vaccinated and her son is halfway there, a big reason she said she was ready to reopen.
"I'm having all my staff get vaccinated, so I feel a little more comfortable. Plus, we put up the barriers, the plexiglass glass barriers, so from a customer perspective we have that protection," Herskowitz said.
The shop is still operating on limited hours and the educational programs have not yet resumed. But just in time for Easter and for the start of Autism Awareness Month, the Chocolate Spectrum is in business and ready for customers to get truffles, Easter bunnies and more.
Herskowitz said whether you come in or order for curbside pick-up, you're supporting her combined labor of love: chocolate-making and helping individuals with special needs.
"We really need the sales to stay open. There's no doubt, especially, because our other revenue streams have not returned yet, so we are doing Easter this week," Herskowitz said.
Visit the Chocolate Spectrum in the Jupiter West Plaza located on Indiantown Road.
Click here for more information on the modified store hours and pick-up orders.