Jessica Spaulding, the owner of the just-opened Harlem Chocolate Factory, has always wanted to live on Strivers' Row. "That's the pinnacle," she says of the famed Central Harlem enclave known for its blocks of historic townhouses.
At least professionally, she's pretty much arrived. Her three-week-old chocolate shop on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard sits just across the street from those dreamy Harlem rowhouses.
Inside the store, the front space has been made to look like an imaginary Strivers' Row parlor, complete with a small electric fireplace, a phonograph and, across one wall, a black-and-white image of the stately homes themselves. "We're basically making a chocolate shop into someone's living room," says the Harlem native.
Although the location and the look of Harlem Chocolate Factory are solidly in place, the shop is actually still in soft-launch mode: it's only open in the afternoons between Wednesdays and Sundays. And it currently sells just some of the handcrafted sweets that Spaulding has been introducing over the last few years at various food pop-ups while building her business.
On a recent afternoon the store's case featured color-splashed bon bons with evocative names like First Nite on Lenox (a mix of smoked peach jam, hazelnut praline and caramel) and Pleasant Ave (dark chocolate, amaretto ganache and toasted pistachios). Other treats included champagne tarts, chocolate bark dotted with potato chips and pretzels, and tubs of rich chocolate sauce fortified with bourbon.
There's much left to do before the grand opening at the end of April or the beginning of May when Harlem Chocolate Factory will be open seven days a week. By then Spaulding hopes to have a machine for making cappuccinos, espressos and hot chocolate.
Another goal is to offer local delivery. And by the time summertime rolls around, there should be a refrigerator outside selling to-go cups of ice cream in flavors such as caramel and, yes, chocolate.
But the main objective right now is having enough of those exquisite bon bons on hand so that the shop doesn't run out as quickly as it has these last few weeks. Spaulding still seems surprised that the store recently sold 320 First Nite on Lenox bon bons in one day. "If the case is empty," she affirms, "we're not making enough."