You step onto the platform of the Merchandise Mart ‘L’ on a cold, blustery Chicago day. Maybe you’re a little grumpy, or the kids are tugging at your sleeves. You take a quick breath and … wait. You breathe in again – this time, a little slower and a little deeper. You instinctively begin to smile. What is that smell?
Yep, that’s chocolate, all right. The Blommer Chocolate factory, to be exact. Sure, Paris might be the City of Lights, and New York is the Big Apple, but only Chicago is bathed in the aromatherapy of roasting cocoa beans. The Blommer Chocolate factory is located in River West, but the scent of slightly scalded chocolate wafts through the Fulton River District, River North, and the West Loop on most days. (If you want to know exactly where, so you can plan your fragrant frolic, just follow the Chicago Cocoa Smell on Twitter. Really.) But if smells alone will not satisfy you and your chocolate-craving youngsters, the Blommer retail outlet will get you your cocoa fix.
While there are no Oompa Loompas taking you on a Willy Wonka-esque factory tour, you are welcome to buy as much (or as little) as you’d like in the small but densely packed outlet store. There is not only bulk cocoa and chocolate, but all manner of chocolate and non-chocolate candy. Try a milk or dark chocolate sea salt caramel, dark-chocolate-covered almonds, or a chocolate malt ball, and you’ll see why they sell each one by the truckload.
And we mean literally by the truckload. Blommer has been in the chocolate factory business since 1939 and they are the largest processor and supplier of cocoa in North America. The factory is still family-owned by the Blommers, who celebrated their 75th anniversary in the chocolate business this year. Their store is the only brick-and-mortar shop where you can buy their chocolate.
The holiday season – or any holiday, really – is the perfect time to bring the little ones, who will undoubtedly clamor for a chocolate Santa, chocolate Easter Bunny, or chocolate pumpkins. If you ask nicely, the nice folks at Blommers might even give you a little sample. Or two. Or three.