As far as famous chocolate shops go, Willy Wonka’s factory had a lot going for it—but it didn’t have a stunning interior meticulously created by renowned designer Kelly Wearstler and chocolatier Jonathan Grahm, complete with an Italian marble chocolate showcase and a turquoise patinaed copper exterior. Compartes’ newly-opened Westfield Century City storefront, however, does.
Launched in 1950, Compartes is a gourmet chocolate manufacturer, and celebrity fans included Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Marilyn Monroe (to name drop a few). Now, with expert chocolatier Grahm at the helm, it continues to operate by a “chocolate is art” mantra. It develops carefully-crafted, custom chocolate creations that range from classic confections to experimental flavors like blueberry muffin, churros and milk, and lavender violet.
Its new flagship location exudes the same attention to detail as its products do. Wearstler and Grahm worked together to carefully plan out every square inch of the store and create something that feels both elegant and grandiose—it's more like a museum of chocolate than a standard commercial shop.
“We have gone through hundreds—if not thousands—of different iterations of all the various parts,” says Grahm of conceptualizing the storefront’s final design. “It was so well thought out since we really didn’t have a lot of space to work with (under 500 square feet) to make sure every single chocolate fit perfectly.”
What it lacks in square footage, though, it makes up for in daring design. Starting with the hand-plastered green walls—and a statement graphite-colored version that features 3D geometric shapes—bold colors and patterns reign supreme in the store. Brass features, including a refrigerator, arched doorways, and faucets, run throughout the space, lending a contemporary touch.
But while the overall look is particularly striking, the most remarkable parts of the design are in the details. Close inspection reveals a repetition of the number three (for example, sets of pendant lights in threes, three sections in the chocolate display case, and three marble bar walls) which all represent Compartes’ signature triangle motif.
Custom tiles were painstakingly hand-painted by a Portland artist. The glass domes that sit atop handmade marbled concrete were hand-blown by a New York artist, in order to make sure no two are alike.
According to Grahm, it is this commitment to expert craftsmanship that differentiates Compartes from other chocolate brands.
“My philosophy is always to create something that people will remember—from the packaging to the flavors to the shapes of the chocolate to now, this unbelievably gorgeous chocolate store,” he says. “We set out to create a unique experience, to make a store that is as unique as the Compartes chocolates themselves. Truly, this store is the world’s most beautiful chocolate store.”
The store’s retail model is another way it differentiates itself. Of course, customers will be able to shop all their Compartes favorites—including over 1,000 chocolate bars, as well as some location-exclusive items—but they can now also stop by for a dining experience, or enjoy frozen hot chocolate 24/7 through a takeout window.
The first of its kind, the beverage is somewhere between soft serve ice cream and rich, thick hot chocolate. With toppings ranging from cereal to edible 24-karat gold—after all, what else do you season hot chocolate with?—it’s sure to fast become an LA favorite.
And speaking of LA, the Century City location has a special importance to Grahm. “The mall itself just plays a big role in my memories of growing up in Los Angeles, and being that I always went there weekly with my mom, it was the only mall in LA I would consider opening a store in,” he says. “And of course, if I was going to do it, it had to be designed by Kelly, because she is just a true genius!”
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