If you ever pass through River North or the West Loop on a windy day, you may catch an overwhelming chocolate scented breeze. That scent is coming from one of Chicago’s oldest chocolate factories, Bloomer Chocolate Company. You may be able to catch other sweet smells around the city as more dessert shops have been popping up featuring some favorites including chocolate, cupcakes, donuts, cookies, frozen yogurt, gelato, macaroons and candy. Several more shops are coming to Chicago soon.
“Each neighborhood has their own distinct candy, ice cream, chocolate shop,” Mike Avella, DePaul professor for the school of hospitality leadership, said. “The more sweet shops in a neighborhood, the more foot traffic of consumers will venture in. More is better because it creates a buzz and people want to be around more.”
The sweet trend has been on the rise for a few years as the desire for dessert after eating a meal out increases, according to various food trend studies.
Chicago itself was named the “candy capital of the world” in the 1900s because it had so many candy manufactures throughout the city. One popular candy, Tootsie Rolls, currently has its factory located in the Ford City industrial park. Mars Company, which produces candies such as Snickers and M&M’s, also has locations in Chicago. Chocolate tours may have to add a new stop with the opening of one of Chicago’s newest chocolate shops, Cocoa + Co., which opened this month. Owner Kim Hack has been exploring chocolate creations for years to craft the perfect experience for customers. Her passion and dream of opening a chocolate shop was in the works for several years starting with an online shop and Cocoa + Co. is now a shop nestled in the historic Old Town neighborhood.
“The idea is sort of like Sephora but for high end chocolates,” Hack said. “They don’t just do millions of eye liners, they do millions of eye liners, blush and all the different things you might need, so this is the same for chocolate. We stretch across all forms and go very deep in each on.”
The shop features a variety of products including more than 175 chocolate bars from 35 chocolatiers such as local brands Chocolat Uzma Sharif, Veruca Chocolates and Vosges. They are also serving pastries from pastry chefs including, Gale Gand, Malika Ameen and Jeffrey Hallenbeck. Additionally they are serving their exclusive “bliss bites,” which combine a choice of a customer’s ingredients salty or sweet with melted chocolate. Other items for purchase include drinking chocolates, confections, bonbons and other retail products.
“The chocolate industry offers a wide variety of opportunities for the small business owner, weathers economic recession well and is growing despite increased health-consciousness and calorie counting,” Avella said.
Smallcakes’ “Cupcakery” is also entering the Chicago market soon. The shop has several locations throughout the U.S. and is spreading out. The new location will be located in the Lakeview neighborhood at 3054 N. Greenview Avenue.
Companies that are known for healthy foods are choosing to serve dessert as well.
“I noticed a lot of places are trying to incorporate healthier options,” DePaul student Britnie Tomasek said. Protein Bar and Just Salad, as well as frozen yogurt shops around the city, offer healthier options such as fruit smoothies and a variety of yogurts. In Tomasek’s opinion it’s “all about the variety you offer.” She emphasized the liking for organic foods as well as organic ingredients used while cooking. Many shops offer gluten free options or low calorie and fat options too.
Aside from shops around city, several sweet festivals will make their way through Chicago. A sweet sell-out is annual donut festival in Wicker Park featuring 11 donut shops and six coffee and tea shops. If you can’t make it to any of these festivals, be on the lookout for food trucks selling items to satisfy your sweet tooth.