From French Broad Chocolate Lounge:
We have a very special announcement. For six years, residents and visitors of our fair city have come for chocolate and fellowship to French Broad Chocolate Lounge at 10 South Lexington Avenue. This, our original location, has served us very well, despite the building’s age and unique quirks. The summer of this year, 2014, will be our last in this spot! We have signed a 10 year lease to relocate French Broad Chocolate Lounge around the corner on Pack Square! This spring, we are renovating the first floor of the historic Legal Building, formally SunTrust Bank, to be our permanent home.
A short trip up a steep slope…
When we first opened (some of you remember), amid naysayers insisting that such a concept would be defunct in 6 months, we were schlepping our cakes and truffles from our home-based pastry kitchen in West Asheville several times a day, juggling very young kids and a fledgling staff of a half dozen service employees and one pastry cook besides Jael and Dan. We hand-dipped truffles, batches of 100 at a time, and stacked sheet pans with our kiddos’ Legos as tray spacers. Our truffle boxes were re-purposed jewelry boxes, into which we placed hand-cut paper spacers and hand-crinkled pads, labeled one-at-a-time with locally letter-pressed logo stickers… Everything was done the hard way: sometimes because we had no choice, but most of the time because that was the way we wanted things done. At the Chocolate Lounge, which just occupied the first level of the building, the line was often to the door and it was commonplace to see folks standing around with wine in one hand and dessert in the other, waiting for one of our few tables.
As our patrons continued to voice their enthusiasm, we got the opportunity to lease the upper two floors of our building. With adequate seating on the second level and our new pastry and confection kitchen (with office and stock room taking up the balance) on the third level, we were again able to grow our production capacity to meet growing demand. That was near the end of 2009. I (Dan) will never forget the date we opened the second level- October 2- because it was the same day my father passed away.
We honed our commitment to direct producer relationships, and dug deeper in our community involvement. We came to yearn for greater involvement in producers of our primary ingredient, the chocolate, so we hatched an elaborate plan to make it from the cocoa bean directly sourced from growers. With a clear mandate from our fans and the continued support of our local bank (thanks so much for trusting us, Asheville Savings!), we renovated an old warehouse on the South Slope of Downtown Asheville to become our Factory & Tasting Room in 2012.
But the people continued to show up at the Lounge, in numbers that exceeded our fire code capacity. Truffle production space in our Lounge kitchen was at capacity as well, with more equipment and inventory than that old building should probably have the burden to bear. Something more had to be done. With our current lease due to expire this summer at 10 South Lexington, we were going to need to either renovate or move. Fortunately (and luck has been on our side more often than not), our landlord presented us with the unique opportunity to anchor their prime space on Pack Square Park, at 10 South Pack Square! After months of negotiation and investigation of feasibility (changing use from a bank to a restaurant presents many challenges for conformity with the latest building codes), we signed a lease and applied for construction financing from our bank.
Today, we received final approval that our bank has our back. We are letting loose the hounds. Asheville’s central business district is about to be enriched with an even more awesome Chocolate Lounge experience, including the following highlights:
-homemade scratch-made ice creams with organic dairy
-separate retail storefront adjacent to the main Lounge space for takeout confections, ice cream, and our expansive library of craft chocolate
-a greater seating capacity, including outdoor seating on Pack Square
-faster service with less waiting (for all you locals who have been hesitating to come out on the weekend: we welcome you back with open arms!)
Additionally, the Factory & Tasting Room is changing for the better:
-to accommodate greater production capacity, we will move our truffle operation from Lounge Kitchen to the Factory
-an improved Tasting Room layout
-a well-stocked retail frontage, to include bulk chocolate for all your home baking needs
-self-guided tours of our chocolate laboratory, any day of the week
-more education options, besides our 90 minute farm-to-bar class, including hands-on chocolate making courses
The word is out. Jael and Dan Rattigan, and our nearly 50 employees, are proud to elaborate on our vision of sustainable chocolate and decadent dessert in our home town. We feel blessed to have this opportunity, and hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor!