It may not quite be Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but Chicago’s Veruca Chocolates has gotten a step closer with its new “chocolate lab and retail store.” The store, which opened at last week at 1332 N. Halsted St., will also have a selection of hot and cold drinks.
“For summertime we have Metropolis cold brew and Marin Kombucha on tap, as well as iced tea and some bottled drinks,” said owner Heather Johnston, a pediatrician who left medicine after her own cancer diagnosis and then went to the French Pastry School. “When fall arrives we’ll have a separate exciting hot chocolate menu that we’ll make here in house.”
Veruca — which shares a first name with Roald Dahl’s avaricious, golden-goose-wanting brat, Veruca Salt — started selling chocolates wholesale in 2012, and quickly made a name for itself with chocolate lovers. This, however, is the brand’s first foray into the retail side of the business: “At some point, I realized how much I loved selling directly to our customers,” Johnston said.
This new space doubles the size of their former Bucktown location. Here, though, glitter-infused hot-pink floors add a bit of that Wonka-like whimsy to the space. There’s a few tables in the front so customers can enjoy their treats.
Customers can browse a selection of gift boxes, bonbons, turtles, champagne truffles, peanut-butter cups, and caramels in the front display case. A glass wall behind the case lets customers watch the candy-making process.
Starting next month, Johnston said the location will being offering chocolate tastings as well as private and public chocolate-making classes. “We actually designed part of our production space to be flexible and open as needed for classes,” she said.
Johnston raised more than $35,000 in an online fundraising campaign that launched in April. Those loyal investors and anyone with a sweet tooth can visit her new location. Veruca is now open.
Veruca Chocolate Lab & Retail Store, 1332 N. Halsted St. (773) 998-2462, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday through August; 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday starting September.