Blog

  • Shop Update, New Items, and Valentines Day

    Hello family and friends!

    There’s so much to share this post. It is amazing to think that only a couple months ago we were sprinting through the holiday season, packing up crazy amounts of chocolate to ship all over the country, and having the pleasure of seeing so many of your familiar faces in the shop.

    Valentine’s Day Alert: if your chocolate needs shipping, please place your order no later than Wednesday, February 10th.

    New Products

    Someone once told me it takes two years before you really feel completely cozy in a new space. That’s certainly true for us. Slowly but surely we add new items to the shelf, add signage, move lighting to bust shadows, etc. Part of settling in is finally offering those products we've been talking about for ages.

    We spent about six months with Jason Grube, one of the designers for our previous box packaging, discussing a more macro-level design framework to handle new, not specifically chocolate, products to the shelf. The colors, shapes, and materials all need to work together to be beautiful, appetizing, and clear. Jason did a stand up job, as always.

    Sticking closely with the goal of flavor discovery, here’s what we’ve released so far:

     

    Hot Cocoas Added to the In-Store Menu: This is not really a new update, but worth mentioning since it hasn’t been mentioned already in the blog. We are making hot cocoas in the shop. They are delicious. They are popular. Aaron makes a homemade cardamom whipped cream for on top that is remarkable. Come in and ask for a cup!

     

    Nibs, Hulls, and Beans: Beans have been for sale on our shelf for a while, but now we offer nibs and hulls as well. You might already be familiar with nibs; you may see them coupled with super foods in stores already. But if you’re unfamiliar, nibs can be used like pine nuts on salads, or even baked into cookies like walnuts. The hulls make for a delicious tea (just error on the side of a light tea, and steep it for 10min, a little longer than normal).

     

    Tea Blends: Some of these blends are also truffle flavors, but some of them are new creations from Aaron. The Honey Red Lemon, a mix of honeybush, lemongrass, and rooibos, has quickly become a staff favorite and one we serve in the shop sometimes.

     

    Flavored Syrups: Syrups are a long time in the making. Last year we started making them seriously by request of a local coffee shop, Convoy Coffee, as a fresher and tastier alternative than corn syrup based flavors. With Convoy's help we found some successful blends that we started serving in the shop as Italian sodas, mixing into the whipped cream, etc. Now you can take the syrup home, too! Add a little cardamom sryup to make a Turkish coffee, or a little lavender syrup to a screwdriver to remind you that spring is on the way.

     

    Bean-to-bar-Chocolate: We really want to release a chocolate bar someday. That effort takes capital, equipment, and knowledge we don’t have currently. But customers that come to our shop are sometimes looking for a product that is not perishable, does not contain dairy, or maybe something “plain”. These bean-to-bar makers are doing something special and we recommend them. They are not available on the website (you can find them online other places), but we do want to give you the option if you’re in the shop.

    Kitchen expansion

    We ran out of space! What used to be our kitchen, office, and retail location was bursting a the seams. Too much square footage we built-out to make chocolate became cluttered with storage.

    So we expanded. The office space next to us was previously rented by the crews working on the big tunneling project. They didn't renew the lease, so we jumped on it. It’s the same size and cost as our kitchen space, about 800 sq ft. Unfortunately that's more footprint than we planned to buy at this time, but we figured it was worth the cost to claim it in preparation for the next couple years.

    new storage space


    new office space (not finished!)

    This expansion allows us to move our office and storage, reclaim our current kitchen space which is all certified food production space, and to take advantage of an extended lease offered to us by the landlord in exchange. We now have both spaces through December of 2017, an extension of a year total on the kitchen space, giving us two more holiday seasons at least. This building, which is right on the water and the gateway building for a large park and beach planned by the city, will most likely become condos when the viaduct comes down. Change is inevitable.

    What’s Next

    Flavored Sugars: This is the last product in the expansion, and we hope to have them on the shelf in the next week or two. Flavors will be: cardamom, lavender & loomi, hibiscus & rose, vanilla bean, and lavender. If you are in Pioneer Square this Thursday, Aaron will be sampling the hibiscus & rose petal sugar at our Valentine’s Day after hours event from 6pm – 8pm. Come on by!

     

  • Signage Installation: A Picture Book

    Our signs are complete! This was one of the most cumbersome tasks required to open the shop, but they are now up and looking beautiful.

    Both the main window sign and the awning are hand painted. Being hand lettered means the edges are ever so slightly imperfect, which gives the work a sense of personality and depth. Work was completed by Sean Barton who also did the signs for Bar Sajor, London Plane, and E Smith Mercantile in the neighborhood.

    One of the coolest features of the new signage is the gold leaf outlines on the letters and logo. This added significant cost, but it was a area Aaron and I decided was appropriate to spend a little extra. Gold leaf creates a mirror effect that gives the sign movement when you pass by, as well as a classic, timeless character.

     

    Gold leaf is carefully placed across the entire letter, and an adhesive of water and gelatin is brushed over the gold which helps it stick to the glass and then dry flat.

    Each letter is then cut out leaving a lot of gold scraps! Sean said in the old days the scraps would be collected and sold back to the "gold man", but there is no "gold man" anymore. He still keeps them in a small Grey Poupon jar to use in a different way on other projects.

    Once the gold is dry and the letters filled in, the gold outline really pops. This is what catches the eye when folks walk by. Pictures really don't do it justice.

    The awning had a previous tenant's lettering shadowing in the black fabric. Instead of replacing the awning entirely, Sean was able to sand down the fabric so the shadow is significantly less visible, and really only from very specific angles.

    A beautiful finished product after 3 days. Well done Sean!

  • New Shop: 3 Months Later

    Every day since opening the new shop 3 months ago we’ve been asked the question: “How is everything going in the new shop?” Things are fantastic. Our new-shop problems are awesome.

    We initially planned to see around half as many people through our doors as have actually visited. That estimate felt like a safe bet. Maybe those expectations were too conservative. Since opening our doors, we’ve come very close to selling out of chocolate at least three times, we’ve had to hire up multiple superhero part time employees, and the total hours has nearly tripled. This is awesome! But it does present its own set of problems to solve.

    New Bar Menu

    Below is a rough mock up of what we are considering for the area next to the bar / fire door. The font is bold and we think it looks pretty cool. A light will go above the menu to give it more prominence. What do you think?

    The menu will have drinking chocolate options. It was clear early on that people want their chocolate beverages! Summer was a hot one this year, so we started with a few cold options first. With more production in the kitchen comes more opportunity to experiment, which led us to offer a couple new things currently on the menu:

    Cold-Brew Coffee Nitrous Shot: The cold brew is something we’ve sold for a while, but Aaron had the idea to send it through the commercial whipped cream dispenser under the same nitrous gas that the whipped cream requires. The result? A cup of pure coffee foam goodness, much like a proper Guinness pour. Many folks who order this mention seeing something similar at a few coffee shops. Come try ours, let us know what you think.

    Italian Sodas: Aaron’s been making simple syrups with the leftover ingredients from the truffle making process, such as cilantro & jalapeno, cardamom, vanilla bean, and Tasmanian pepperberries. These simple syrups make delicious Italian sodas with just a bit of carbonated water. We’ve been pleased to see people just as happy to explore flavor this way as through the chocolate, however we have no intention of competing with Dry Soda just a couple blocks away. [chuckle]

    Homemade Whipped Cream: Eventually hot cocoa and sipping chocolates will make their way onto our bar menu. A delicious whipped cream was an important step in that project. Aaron’s been mixing in ingredients like cacao nibs and cardamom to make some decadent and wonderful whipped creams that will eventually complete an unforgettable cup of cocoa.

    Art Wall

    The art wall is thriving and full! It’s not uncommon for people to stop into the shop just to check out all of your cool photos that make it onto the wall. On average right now, we see about 80 or so blocks leave the shop on a weekly basis. If you pass by the shop on a Wednesday or Thursday morning you might see me making more. It’s a lot of work, but so fulfilling to see people enjoy.

    You can still participate if you wish. Email me (karl@intriguechocolate.com) your Instagram handle to let me know it’s ok to pull photos from your feed and I’ll pick a few that are appropriate.

    Signage

    We are still waiting on our shop signs to go up. It’s been a constant uphill battle between getting approved by the city and finding a sign maker that can get the job done. We hope to complete that project in the next couple of weeks, both the hand-painted large logo in our main window and the lettering on the awning. Then we’ll tackle the smaller items like shop hours in the door windows.

    What’s Next?

    Hot Cocoa and Sipping Chocolate: The weather is getting cooler and many of you are starting to request sipping chocolate. We are working on the logistics of making these in the shop, and as soon as the process produces stellar results, we’ll share with you.

    Honeys, Tempered Chocolate Bars, Nibs, and Tea Blends: These have always been a dream of ours to offer. There are so many wonderful flavors in this world! Chocolate isn’t the only medium by which to explore them. We are working with our designers to create labels and selecting packages that will be both shelf sturdy and attractive.

    Current Flavors on Website: A common request. Inventory turns over so quickly it is difficult to conceptualize a way to post exactly what flavors are available at what time. Part of the appeal of our shop is that there is always something new and delicious available! But that also means that flavors sell out mid day, or faster than expected. We are working on a way to do this, however. Maybe we’ll tweet a list each day? Maybe. So far, the best way to find out what is in the box is to drop by or call the shop.

    Thank you for all the feedback and support!

  • Retail Update: We’re Open!

    Storefront is open! Come check out the new space!

    157 S Jackson St
    Seattle, WA 98103

    Hours
    Mon - Fri: 10am - 7pm
    Sat: 10am - 6pm
    Sun: 11am - 6pm

    Yesterday we passed health inspection. Today we are soft opening. Other than getting signs in our window, every major task is complete. There are still a lot of small details to iron out, ways we can grow into the space to make it more friendly and inviting for you and to prepare for a grand opening in a couple weeks, but what we have now we are mighty proud to show off.

    If you’d like to read about the process to this point, check out the blog posts: Get Creative, Let’s Build It, Home Stretch, and Install and Inspect.

    Stikwood

    These reclaimed wood boards were a cinch to apply to the front of the bar. Mostly credit is due to our cabinetry builder, Brian, for his strict rules regarding level application. He was able to shape the wood to cover some really tricky spots seamlessly, like around electrical conduits and uneven floor tiles.

    After the wood went on, it became very apparent how similar the bar face is now to the color of the slate floor. A glossier finish to the floor would help to give the wood a better contrast. That might be a project we tackle in the near future since it is inexpensive and relatively easy to apply.

    Free Art Wall

    Blocks ended up being easy to produce. Aaron’s dad helped a lot, offering to cut the 4” x 4” wood blocks at his shop in MN and then ship them to us flat rate using the USPS. From there it’s a matter of spraying adhesive to the face of the wood and positioning the photo correctly.

    The concept is a “Free Art Wall”. That means you are encouraged to take a block (or several) with you if they speak to you. We suggest a donation of some kind to help the wall keep going.

    As you can see, there are a lot of open blocks on the wall. If you have pictures of Pioneer Square, Seattle, the North West, or chocolate that you think would make a good addition, then send them to us via twitter (@intriguechocola) or on instagram (@intrigue_chocolate_co). You can also just let us know what your instagram name is and give us permission to choose from what you have available. All the blocks have a photo credit on the back.

    Special thank you to the following instagram users that helped fill the wall thus far!

    @barbievanhorn
    @coltercousa
    @eluvs
    @esmithmerc
    @grubedoo
    @mnschneider
    @mr_kiana
    @ryandeanposey
    @saffrongal

     

    What we’re thinking about now

    Fill Shelves and Displays

    Last night we filled the shelves with product, dishes, and spices. There is still quite a bit of space we can fill and that is good, we have a lot planned. Look forward to flavored sugars, infused honeys, tea mixes, and origin chocolates.

    Signage

    We are still waiting to hear from the preservation board for the signage we’d like approved, and we have our sign artist. Then we’ll need to pick up a few permits from the city before application. Signage was really delayed in this process. That’s our fault for underestimating the number of department s that need to weigh in, as well as the very specific details they require.

    You!

    Please do come on by, check out the space, and taste some chocolates. We are planning to have a few extra goodies there for you, too, so don’t be shy!

     

  • Retail Update: Install and Inspect

    Of all the updates on progress we’ve given so far (Get Creative, Let’s Build It, and Home Stretch) this one is certainly the most visually dramatically. Shelving and counter tops arrived and are installed, refrigerators came out of their crates and are in position, lighting fixtures are hooked up. It's really coming together!

    Status Update:

    Approvals, Negotiations, Initial Permitting, and Bids: Completed

    Funding: Completed

    Moving the Fire Door & Wall Repair: Completed

    Plumbing and Electrical Infrastructure: Completed

    Tiling and Paint: Completed

    Counter and Shelving Construction & Installation: Completed

    Signage: Delayed (incomplete application)

    Final Inspections: Pending

    Opening: Pending Inspections

    Seattle Times & Community Source Capital

    Before we dive into the construction progress, we want to call out the wonderful article written about Community Sourced Capital in the Seattle Times recently. We were fortunate enough to be included as the example company. Thank you CSC!

    We’re also being invited to participate in some other cool co-ops with CSC, as seen here with Aaron being interviewed. It’s opportunities like these that were afforded to us because of your help and contributions. Thank you again.

    Scullery and Kitchen Shelving

    With the tile wall completed, the plumber was able to install the sinks and water heater, piecing everything together like a careful game of Tetris. The entire scullery now fits within half the back wall and includes a prep sink (with indirect drain), hand washing sink, three basin sink, mop sink (filled via the indirect drain), an oversize grease trap, and on-demand water heater, all surrounded by washable surfaces.

    The other contractors went to work drilling in the stainless steel shelving. It broke our hearts to hear that drill piercing the beautiful tile that was just installed, but the results were well worth it! Soon those shelves will be filled with spices in fancy jars and colorful dishware for serving teas and coffees to pair with the chocolate.

    Pipe Shelving

    Aaron’s dad, John, was in town for a week and graciously agreed to help us a few important details. The big task we tackled was building the pipe shelving, which we couldn’t have done without John’s help. A day or so of design and talking through how far the shelving should reach into the room, another day of purchasing supplies from the hardware store and cleaning the grease off the black iron pipes, and then a day to install. A very fun project to the end.

    We choose to use untreated 12’ planks of wood to get shelving in as quickly as possible. Eventually we will come around to those planks again an update with something that’s received a bit more tender loving care.

    Bar tops

    Soon after the shelves went up we started receiving the big shipments and it became really messy again. It was good we scheduled them all to arrive around the same time, after the general contractor was done painting and repairing, because these monsters were not only extremely heavy but took up a lot of space. You can see the under-counter fridge on the bottom right of the image above, just in front of all the cabinet boxes that would become the sales counter and tasting bar.

    The sales counter is 10’ long, and the bar top 13’ long, and weigh around 150 – 200 lbs respectively. Getting them through the door was a team effort.

    Unfortunately during shipping there was a bit of damage. The marking above that looks like moisture is abrasion from the metal straps that were used to secure the top to the truck bed. It was secured so tightly that the mill scale wore away in some spots. With the metal being so stunning and beautiful, it was hugely disappointing to see so much wear and tear in transit. But at the end of the day, we are embracing raw and functional materials for their natural aesthetic. That aesthetic includes the character they will accumulate over time and we are choosing to celebrate it. Wear and tear is also beautiful.

    This week our builder came out to help install the boxes, set the counter tops, and install the fridge. Above is Aaron leaning over the sales counter to inspect the gap between the steel and the hand railing.

    Time to un-crate the display fridge! This was, by far, the heaviest single element in the shop due to the large areas of glass and mechanical compressors, totaling just under 400 lbs. With a lot of help we got it up onto the counter and dropped into the counter top without losing any fingers in the process.

    What we’re thinking about now:

    Inspections

    Health inspection happens tomorrow morning. The health department is notoriously strict, and it’s many hundred dollars to have them come out to do a second inspection if you fail the first time. This is a biggie. We followed our plan, though, so we are feeling more urgency to be prepared than anything else.

    Plumbing is all wrapped up. The building inspection had a few tweaks requested but nothing to prevent opening. Electrical will be completed soon.

    Fire inspection requires an alarm test. Unfortunately the first opportunity to do so is next Tuesday, May 19th.

    DPD will need these things before inspecting the structure. This means we’ll slip on the opening date just a bit, maybe until Wednesday the 20th. Hopefully we can wrangle that date in a bit. We'll see.

    Signage

    We were, however, given an “incomplete” status on our application for signage which will eventually go before the neighborhood historic preservation board. This is hugely frustrating. We feel our asks are very minor, put together a professional and clear application, waited a month before hearing anything, then asked to update the application with more requests (paint samples, wet signatures instead of electronic as if these are highly sensitive legal documents), and wait again. We’ll deal with it and open without signage.

    Stikwood

    Tonight we’ll be building a front to the counter tops and bars and applying stikwood to the front to give the counters a reclaimed and weathered wood look. Stikwood is particularly good for this because it is thin, pre-treated, and comes with an adhesive backing that will allow us to apply it quickly.

    When the boxes arrived, I thought for sure it would take at least 10 – 12 of these to equal 120 sq ft of coverage. Nope! They are that thin.

    That’s it for now. More to come!

Added to cart

c