In Dining

Red Elephant will offer an experience that's both tasty and educational.

Don't forget: Red Elephant Chocolate is coming to Third Ward

It could be said that Richard Koenings went from squirrels to elephants. After all, Koenings, the former co-owner of Buddy Squirrel, LLC, is opening a new business soon called Red Elephant Chocolate.

The "chocolate cafe," located in the Third Ward at 333 N. Broadway St., will open in two phases. The Internet store will start up in mid-to-late August and the walk-in shop is scheduled to open its doors at the end of September.

Koenings says the Third Ward is the ideal location for a chocolate cafe because it's relaxing, comfortable and upscale.

Red Elephant will offer three different chocolate experiences, according to Koenings. The first he refers to as "traditional" chocolate offerings that are sold in blocks and pieces as candy. The second will be chocolate-focused baked goods.

Koenings is finalizing with local bakeries to provide goods that will get chocolate-ized by Red Elephant. Negotiations are still in progress, so he was unable to comment which bakeries he would partner with at this time. He did say, however, that customers can expect high-quality baked goods including chocolate cake, red velvet cake, cake bites, petits fours and more.

And because life usually comes full circle, of course Koening's current venture, Red Elephant, will nod to his past venture, Buddy Squirrel, and serve chocolate nut clusters. Nuts will be included in other baked items, too.

The third chocolate experience at Red Elephant will be as a cafe, offering a variety of hot chocolates, chocolate ice cream drinks / shakes and coffees served with chocolate. (Koenings is also finalizing details with a coffee roaster and could not yet disclose which one.)

Red Elephant Chocolate will not serve any drinks with alcohol.

But Koenings wants to offer more to his customers than chocolate food and drink items. He plans to make Red Elephant an experience for people and the chance for them to learn more about chocolate. And elephants.

The health benefits of dark chocolate is one thing Koenings plans to share with customers through Red Elephant's website and newsletters, along with the history of chocolate.

"Chocolate has such a rich, interesting history and mystery to it," says Koenings.

Originally called "food of the gods," chocolate was only available to the rich because it was difficult and expensive to make.

"It was reserved for royalty and special occasions," says Koenings. "It was even a form of currency long ago."

Like chocolate, elephants are rich in history, too. Koenings says he chose the elephant image because he finds it to be a noble, recognizable, family-oriented and a little bit whimsical animal. He also likes the belief around the idea that elephants never forget. (Studies, in fact, have proven that elephants, although they don't have the greatest eyesight in the animal kingdom, do remember faces and might even have enough memory capabilities to hold grudges.)

"We're going to have some fun tie-ins between cocoa and elephants," says Koenings.

The decision to include the color red, as opposed to another color, in the name and concept is because it's vivid and, in the chocolate world, the color of the two biggest chocolate-giving holidays: Christmas and Valentine's Day.

Koenings' approach to specialty chocolate is similar to how people approach specialty coffee these days. They want to know where it came from and the story behind it. This is part of the reason why Koenings promises more than a chocolate-buying experience at Red Elephant Chocolate.

"It's going to be more than getting something at the counter and leaving. You're going to learn about chocolate," he says. "And you're going to learn about elephants."


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