It was a truly bittersweet moment yesterday when this news hit my desk: Beloved St. Paul confection shop Chocolat Céleste is expanding with a new gig . . . in Deephaven. Does this mean I have to drive allllll the way out to Lake Minnetonka to sample more of their heavenly truffles, bridal shower presents, and birthday bonbons? Yes, yes it does. Dang.
And you know I'll do it. So will you, brides and fellow chocoholics. This Saturday, May 21, Chocolat Céleste is tying the knot and moving in with Buttercream bakery on Minnetonka Boulevard (County Road 5). Every Saturday, Buttercream will feature Céleste's sweets in their bakery cases. "Chocolate consultant" and much-lauded owner Mary Leonard will be on hand to help you pick out the right treats for special events. (Her St. Paul showroom will remain open, with limited hours—see below.)
"We've been [at Buttercream] on Saturdays for about a month, but I've been getting a feel for it and we're going full force this weekend," Leonard says. Stop in this Saturday for free samples and a special on truffles (buy three, get one free).
Leonard won over our editors' chocoholic palates years ago with her truffles' high cocoa content and ingredients such as fresh organic cream and butter, fresh fruit, liqueurs, and spices. We featured her University Avenue shop several times in Mpls.St.Paul Weddings and Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. I was alarmed in May 2010 when the light rail Central Corridor construction, in part, prompted Leonard to close her retail doors (along with neighbor Martha's Gardens floral studio). This saga landed Leonard a spot on national TV: On June 5, Leonard will be featured on MSNBC's "Your Business," a program covering small business owners and their struggles and triumphs.
In October, Leonard relocated to the über-industrial zone on Transit Avenue (still in St. Paul, just off University), where her neighbors include—who else?—Buttercream. Apparently they hit it off and decided to shack up by The Lake, which can only bode well for you western suburbanites. Yum.
Chocolat Céleste's St. Paul showroom will remain open for East Siders and corporate customers, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday,and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
In Deephaven village, however, Buttercream serves brides first and foremost.
"I needed a store location, and I've wanted to be in the western suburbs for a very long time," Leonard says. "That's where my customer base really is, as well as my business customer. More CEOs, more professional people are out and about on a Saturday there.
"The [St. Paul] showroom is not very visible to the public because of the light rail [construction]," she says. "We use it as our production kitchen, but we needed a retail location in a higher-traffic location. [Buttercream's David Mess] and I started discussions last July."
He says: "We should have done it long ago."
She says: "He asked me why I didn't go to another cake company, and I said, 'You're the man.' It's [a bakery] that has the volume locally."
As if her spring weren't busy enough, MSNBC filmed Leonard at work earlier this month. "They found me based upon the fact that I took time off from the business and then opened again, with more limited hours," she says. "They wanted to talk to me about how it affected me personally and how I rethought the business. It was an intentional sabbatical.
"I did take a class on prosperity and rethinking [the business]," she says. "It is hard to leave things behind and say no to certain things. I was trying to do everything—retail, online, corporate. I had to put a stake in the ground and say, 'This is what I want to do for the future of the business. Creating something artful that will be unique.' "
Leonard reports that she's zeroing in on custom chocolate work for events and brands. Initials on your wedding-favor chocolates, for example. "I can do almost any kind of stencil that brides or event planners can imagine," she says.
Oh, we can imagine. See you at the lake.
Buttercream, 18172 Minnetonka Blvd., Deephaven, 952-249-0390; Chocolat Celeste showroom, 652 Transfer Road, Ste. 16A, St. Paul, 651-644-3823, chocolatceleste.com
Dockside kiss photo by Erin Johnson. Chocolate photos courtesy of Chocolat Céleste.